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Buzzwords Explained: Equity in Early Childhood

race equity bias

Key Takeaways

  • Nearly 52% of America’s infants and toddlers are children of color.
  • Equitable access to resources is one of the most important factors in determining the long-term well-being of a child. 
  • Each person that comes into contact with an infant or toddler has a role in advancing equity.
We know these first three years are critical. We need to ask ourselves, “What are we doing to create opportunities for success?”
Featured insight from:

Eme Martin

Lead Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Officer

Eme leads our strategic development and implementation of work to address the needs of overlooked and under-resourced communities. 

What equity in early childhood is:

At its core, equity in early childhood means that children in any space have the same opportunities regardless of their race, location, physical or mental abilities, income or background.

  • Equity is a human right. Infants and toddlers in home settings, child care centers, and early education classrooms deserve equal access to programs and resources that will help them thrive.  
  • When we achieve equity, all infants and toddlers have access to the fresh food they need for brain development, are surrounded by supportive caregivers, receive regular medical care, and live in a safe home environment. This means providing the exact support that individual families need to achieve the same outcomes.
ZERO TO THREE is committed to helping build a just and inclusive world.

How equity impacts children in early childhood:

More than half of children born in America today are children of color.

When a group of those toddlers sit down for circle time at their daycare, what books will their teacher read? Statistically, the majority of main characters in children’s literature are white. A classroom focused on achieving equity will have curated a bookshelf that is diverse and representative of all students, but it doesn’t happen naturally.  

Not only are children of color less likely to see themselves represented in classroom literature, they’re also more likely to have their behavior judged more harshly due to implicit bias. They are less likely to have reliable access to food and housing, and more likely to have developmental concerns missed by teachers and doctors.  


When we create spaces where all children have the chance to thrive, we invest in the future.

Through careful data collection, like ZERO TO THREE’s State of Babies Yearbook, it’s clear that equitable access to resources is one of the most important factors in determining the long-term well-being of a child.  

Without critical resources, children don’t have the foundation they need to succeed. Those resources include stable, uncrowded housing, affordable medical care, high-quality early childhood programs, and supportive families. Children who live in poverty, particularly children of color, have less reliable access to all of these basic needs. 

Data show that children in poverty are less likely to thrive without intervention. By tailoring programs to provide those children with the same early childhood resources as their peers who are not facing poverty, we can work towards closing the equity gap. 

Infants and toddlers face racism, too.

By The Numbers

What you can do:

Achieving equity in early childhood is no small task. Each person that comes into contact with an infant or toddler has a role to play in shaping that child’s future.

Support families. Children who are read to by the adults in their life achieve better educational outcomes, but when families are dragged down by life’s stressors even that simple task can become difficult. A Black mother should be able to find a Black doctor for her child, and every practitioner should be culturally competent. All caregivers should practice antiracist and anti-ableist principles. Ensuring all families have stable housing, nutritious food, and access to medical care, we create a more equitable future for today’s babies.  

Get trained. Early childhood professionals can’t just correct equity on their own. The majority of infant and child development resources were created based on information gathered from white English-speaking families with adequate income. Students of color, immigrant children and children with disabilities were not taken into account — leaving those resources outdated and even harmful to the majority of America’s babies. Seek professional development rooted in an equity lens and promote diversity-informed reflective practice among early childhood professionals to provide culturally competent services.

By supporting legislation.  Data continually show the devastating effect on babies who aren’t given the same opportunities as their peers. We must push lawmakers to consider equity in all of their decisions that affect families. 

Taking a proactive approach is key to ensuring an inclusive work environment.

Advancing equitable access to the joy and wonder of learning.

Photo of John B. King, Former Secretary of Education

Hear from John B. King, Jr., EdD, about his experiences as a classroom teacher and U.S. Secretary of Education 

A graphic promoting the ZERO TO THREE Conference for early childhood professionals.
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Advancing Equity in the Early Childhood Workforce
Natasha Byars, Raquel Munarriz Diaz, and Sandipan Paul Abstract This article explores how the early childhood field can support capacity building around equity in the current workforce and build a more diverse, representative workforce at all levels. The authors explore hiring practices, strategies for equipping a diverse workforce, and the actions necessary to realize equity and inclusion through organizational change […]