Brookings Institution: Can Texts Help Families Applying for ECE Help?

June 27, 2019

Published by CounciLINK on June 27, 2019

BrookingsGovernments restrict many privileges and services to certain subsets of the population. The U.S. federal government, for example, limits voting rights to U.S. citizens and subsidized student loans to undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need.

These restrictions typically involve the government screening would-be recipients for their eligibility. However, eligibility screenings can create barriers that keep people from accessing the privileges to which they are entitled. Some of these barriers, like certain voter ID requirements, reflect deliberate attempts to keep certain eligible people out. Others are the product of bureaucracy, less nefarious in their origins, but still harmful in their effects.

A newly released study looks at the eligibility verification process for enrolling in early childhood education (ECE) programs in New Orleans. A New Orleans parent who wishes to obtain a publicly funded, tuition-free ECE placement for her child must demonstrate eligibility by producing a set of documents related to issues like family income and residency. Similar requirements exist for publicly funded ECE seats across the country.

Using an experimental text messaging intervention, we explored the barriers that low-income families confront during the ECE school choice process and how policymakers might better help them through those barriers. We found that a low-cost communications intervention can substantially increase the rate at which families complete the eligibility verification process and enroll in ECE programs.

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