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EQOP-Socioeconomic gaps in language development and school achievement: Mechanisms of inequality and opportunity

In this ERC project, we investigate causes of social inequality in children’s language development and school achievement. We also examine whether early childhood education and care (ECEC) improves opportunities for disadvantaged children, and whether the benefits of ECEC for one- and two- year- olds are greater than the costs.


As inequality increases in most developed countries, children from socioeconomically disadvantaged families are at exceptional risk for academic underachievement with lasting consequences for individuals, their communities, and society at large.

We have, however, not yet a coherent understanding of the causal mechanisms at the neighborhood level and the family level, and how they interact. Among policy makes, early childhood education and care (ECEC) is considered a key to remedy this risk. Yet the science on ECEC effectiveness at a national scale lags behind the excitement.

Video: Shane Colvin, UiO


  • To identify how and why socioeconomic disadvantage, in neighborhoods and in the family, undermines children’s language skills and school achievement.
  • To investigate whether ECEC can improve opportunities for disadvantaged children to excel.
  • To clarify the policy relevance of these inquiries, we will estimate costs of socioeconomic achievement gaps and the economic benefits of ECEC at scale.


We take an investigative approach incorporating  population level trends down to nuanced assessments of individual children’s growth. We do this by combining the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study, MoBa, with national registries in Norway.

These data allow us powerful analytic opportunities, combining state-of-the-art statistical, econometric, psychometric, and genetic epidemiological methods. Specifically, we will use multiple quasi-experimental methods, exploiting both macro-level trends in Norway, and data on families and genetic relatedness in MoBa.

Project type

Consolidator Grant 2018

ERC funding

EUR 1,907,959

Project duration

60 months

Start date

June, 1 2019


Published May 6, 2019 1:31 PM - Last modified Dec. 18, 2020 8:38 AM


Principal Investigator
Professor Henrik Daae Zachrisson, Department of Special Needs Education, UiO. (Photo: Shane Colvin, UiO)