Inequalities in development begin early in life. Children growing up in poor households often don’t get the nutrition and early stimulation they need for healthy development. Good preschool programs can help poor children catch up, but many children are unable to enroll or attend regularly. Preschools may simply be too costly, poor children may lack transport, parents may not be aware of the importance of early stimulation for later life development, or poor parents may feel that preschools are not very welcoming to their children. This evaluation will study whether addressing financial and non-financial barriers can be effective for promoting preschool access among poor, mainly Roma children in Bulgaria and promote greater Roma inclusion in European society more broadly.
Research area: Early Childhood Nutrition, Development, and Health
Evaluation Sample: 6,000 poor families in 236 settlements
Intervention: Preschool, Tuition Waivers, Conditional Cash Transfers, Community Outreach, Information
Researchers: Professor Elise Huillery, Sciences Po; Professor Paul Gertler, University of California Berkeley; Joost de Laat, World Bank
Bulgaria’s population of 7.3 million includes some 700,000 to 800,000 Roma, the majority of whom are poor and live in vulnerable conditions. Roma children in particular suffer multiple disadvantages: the vast majority live in poverty, many live in settlements with bad housing conditions, and few complete secondary school. The education gap between Roma and other children starts early; while more than 75 percent of all Bulgarian children aged three to six attend preschool, the majority of Bulgarian Roma children don’t go to preschool and they often live in homes without books or toys. Bulgaria recently passed a law making preschool compulsory for all children, but preschool in many municipalities is not free, and given the cost, it remains unaffordable for many. This evaluation will help policymakers in Bulgaria and other countries with Roma communities understand how to craft effective policies to encourage preschool enrollment.