Research Project

Nathaniel Serio

Major: Philosophy, Cognitive Science, and Linguistics
Faculty Advisor: Professor Kristin Syrett

Policy Presentation Theme: Economic and Educational Cooperation and Conflict

Language is a causally important factor in most of what children learn early on in development. Indeed, according to some researchers, kindergarten language scores are the best predictor of school achievement by the time they reach third or fifth grade (Pace, Burchinal, Alper, Hirsh-Pasek, & Golinko, 2019). With that being said, gaps in cognitive skills arise before children even step on their first bus to go to school. Hart & Risely (1995) famously observed there to be an enormous difference in the amount and quality of language experience between children from high SES family backgrounds and children from low SES family backgrounds. These results effectively sparked discussion on what is now putatively been called the 30-million Word Gap in the literature. As part of a larger context, the research coming out of this literature has established that despite the phenomenon being called the “word gap,” it isn’t just a disparity in the token number of words that children hear at home. In this video, I’ll review some of the research from this literature (Hart & Risely, 1995; Hoff, 2003; Romeo et al., 2018) and in the process of doing so, explain what exactly the gap is and why the 30 million number is significant.