Unequal Access: Barriers to Early Childhood Education for Boys of Color

August 2016

Dionne Dobbins, Ph.D., Michelle McCready, MPP, Laurie Rackas, MA

Child Care Aware® of America
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Moriah Group


I want every young man who sees me to know that I’m not that different from them. I wasn’t born into wealth. I wasn’t born into fame. I made a lot of mistakes—but I kept at it.” – President Barack Obama, Excerpt from “RISE: The Promise of My Brother’s Keeper” (2015) Poignant words voiced by the first African-American President of the United States, Barack Obama, in a documentary about his initiative, My Brother’s Keeper (MBK). Launched in February 2014, the MBK initiative shined a light on the lack of opportunities for boys of color (African American, Native
American, Hispanic, and Asian boys) and their potential for success if those conditions were reversed. MBK made the case for a moral and economic imperative in the United States to collectively pursue better outcomes for all citizens. The MBK initiative includes a broad coalition of leaders in philanthropy, business, government, faith communities, and media working together to break down barriers, clear pathways for opportunity, and reverse negative trends for boys of color (Jarrett & Johnson, 2014).

Children and Boys of Color are
Disproportionately at Risk

For decades, opportunities for long term success have often eluded boys and young men of color. Starting at birth, these children of all classes face negative perceptions, structural disadvantage, and biased treatment. Even though many boys of color have led successful lives, the odds are against their success. Research on disparities and long-term outcomes for children of color exposes the bleak truth: children of color face a myriad of structural obstacles which stacks the odds against their success (Barbarin, Graham, Murry & Tolan, 2016). Boys of color are disproportionately shut out of meaningful educational opportunities. Many attend high poverty, low performing schools with inexperienced teachers and fewer opportunities to enroll in advanced courses. This opportunity gap caused by a lack of adequate education can be directly correlated to the high dropout rates in school amongst African-American and Hispanic across the country (Horowitz & Perazzo, 2012).

Source: RWJF and Moriah Group