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Frances McGinnity, Patricia McMullin, Aisling Murray and Helen Russell

Both psychological and sociological accounts have suggested that the home environment and parental activities with children, the home learning environment (HLE), play an important role in cognitive development and may provide insights into the processes that produce and reproduce educational inequalities. Using the Growing up in Ireland Study (GUI) this chapter investigates if differences in the HLE help to explain the social gradient in childhood cognitive outcomes at age five; and second, can childcare outside the home compensate for a poor HLE? The results suggest that all children, regardless of socio-economic status, could expect to benefit from a rich HLE, but differences therein only partially explain the lower vocabulary scores of children of disadvantaged parents. The chapter also provides some evidence that centre-based care was associated with an increase in vocabulary score for children from poor HLEs. However, this effect is very small and only slightly reduces the gap in vocabulary scores between children from a rich and poor HLE.