Applying an Equity Lens
Recent census figures show that 45 percent of young children from birth to age four in the United States are children of color. The diversity of young children will continue to grow. Additionally, one in five children today is learning both English and another language simultaneousl. Designing an early childhood system that is responsive to the needs of all children is key to these children’s—and the nation’s—future. Opportunity gaps exist along the lines of income, race and ethnicity, language, and culture; these gaps may be characterized by significant differences in the following:
- Opportunities for children to enter kindergarten ready to achieve their full potential
- The extent to which families are able to participate or choose to participate in formal services, particularly health services, preschool programs, and other formal care arrangements
- The extent to which leaders and staff are prepared to support or assess young children who are culturally and linguistically diverse
- The extent to which leaders and staff reflect the diversity and lived experiences of the children and families they serve
- The extent to which diverse stakeholders are authentically engaged in ongoing planning and decisionmaking as well as leadership roles
Keeping these realities front and center and applying an equity lens are necessary for collecting data on young children and their families. What you collect, how you analyze and disaggregate the data, and how you present the data all affect how decisions are made. The right data allow for a focus on eliminating disparities and supporting solutions so that all people have the opportunity to reach their full potential. Inequities exist because of myriad systemic social, economic, and environmental factors, and these factors should constantly be brought forth through the data processes. When you make decisions about what data are important, you create the opportunity to surface and highlight inequities.
Conversely, you may hide inequities by using data that cannot be parsed in a way to explore differences by groups, communities, or neighborhoods.
By applying an equity lens to data gathering and dissemination, you can help identify, assess, and reflect on a solution’s actual or potential impact on communities with different needs within their unique social context. Using an equity lens creates opportunities to mitigate negative impacts, enhance positive impacts, and prioritize solutions for populations most in need.
To apply an equity lens, consider the following: which people, geographic areas, or other groups have historically been most affected by the problem; what data are missing from your dataset that could paint a different picture of diverse families; what social, economic, and environmental data could be overlaid; and where resources are currently dedicated. All of this should help define your approach and prioritize practices and decisions. Creating urgency and direction through a clear, data-centered approach, identifying disparities, and highlighting the right data will help allocate the right resources to the people and places that need it most. Please see the resource section for more details on how to apply an equity lens. .
 BUILD Initiative. (n.d.). Diversity and equity in early childhood systems [Web page]. Retrieved from https://buildinitiative.org/approach/equitable-early-childhood-systems/.
Spark Policy Institute (n.d.). Tools for social innovators [Web page]. Retrieved from http:https://sparkinsight.com/toolkit/ .
 See footnote 1.