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Haitian American Infant Development

In the global South, there is some evidence that access to basic resources in school environments, such as a sufficient number of desks, tables and chairs; access to blackboards; access to textbooks and other books; and the availability of a school library all impact children’s school achievement (Glewwe et al., 2011Riddell, 2008). However, frequently these physical environment factors are correlated with each other and with other physical and psychosocial factors such as class size, building quality and teacher training, and so it can be difficult to clearly identify key factors impacting child outcomes. In addition, the mechanism explaining learning outcomes is somewhat unclear; perhaps the availability of these resources partly signals a commitment on the part of the school administration and relevant local and national government agencies to quality education (Glewwe et al., 2011). Nevertheless, a number of carefully controlled studies across multiple contexts document the importance of having a desk, chair and textbook per student. For example, in their investigation of the relations between school physical quality and rural Kenyan first grade children’s cognitive functioning and behavior, Daley et al. (2005) found that the number of books per student independently predicted standardized test scores.

In preschool and childcare settings across the global South, there is a growing interest in improving the quality of both physical and psychosocial environments for children (Engle et al., 2007Hyde & Kabiru, 2003Irwin et al., 2007Myers, 1992van der Gaag & Tan, 1998). And, indeed, the most commonly used assessment of the quality of childcare environments, the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale (ECERS, Harms, Clifford & Cryer, 1998), includes two rating scales that assess children’s interactions with the physical environment: Space and Furnishings and Activities (which includes both the availability of learning materials and their use). However, although a significant body of research in the United States indicates an association between childcare quality and children’s cognitive and socioemotional outcomes (e.g., Sylva et al., 2006), there is little research that considers the impact of the physical environment directly