Involvement in high-quality center-based care, preschool, and prekindergarten programs can improve academic and behavioral outcomes for children when they reach kindergarten., Nationally, children who attend high-quality center-based child care, prekindergarten or preschool programs tend to have better pre-academic and language skills than other children. Children who spend more hours in high-quality center-based care perform better in math and reading in the early grades of elementary school. One long-term follow-up study of very-high-quality early care and education, the Abecedarian Project, found that children who participated in full-day high-quality programs from birth to kindergarten were more likely than those who did not to eventually attend a four-year college and score higher on measures of academic and intellectual success, and were less likely to have a teen pregnancy. High-quality child care can be especially important in improving outcomes among children in families with low education or low incomes.
Not all the findings are positive. There is some indication that, overall, children who spend more time in child care tend to show more externalizing problem behaviors such as aggression, disobedience, and temper tantrums., However, these findings are not entirely consistent, and it is not clear that this pattern applies to children in low-income families: children who participated in Early Head Start and went on to formal child care programs after age three had improved early literacy skills without an increase in aggressive behaviors.,, There is also evidence that the externalizing behavior pattern does not apply to time spent in high-quality center-based care. As states increasingly recognize the importance of early education, there has been more funding for public prekindergarten programs, something which could be especially beneficial for improving readiness for school among children in low-income families.
Between 1994 and 2002, among those children not yet enrolled in kindergarten, the percentage of three- to five-year olds enrolled in full-time prekindergarten and preschool programs increased modestly, from 21 to 28 percent. By 2013, this proportion had fallen to 26 percent. Conversely, the percentage who were not enrolled in any preschool program declined from 52 to 44 percent, before increasing to 49 percent in 2008. The proportion was 47 percent in 2013. The percentage of three- to five-year-olds enrolled in part-day programs remained relatively stable, and was at 27 percent in 2013. (Figure 1)
Black children are the most likely to be enrolled in full-day preschool programs, and Hispanic children are the least likely. In 2013, among those children not yet enrolled in kindergarten, 39 percent of black children ages three to five were enrolled in full-day programs, compared with 25 percent of white children and 22 percent of Hispanic children. White children were the most likely to be enrolled in a part-day program (31 percent), while black children were the least likely (18 percent, compared with 22 percent of Hispanic children). Overall, Hispanic children were the least likely of these groups to be enrolled in any program in 2013, with 56 percent not enrolled at all, compared with 44 and 43 percent of black and white children, respectively. (Figure 2)
In 2013, nearly two-thirds (60 percent) of children ages three to five whose parents had less than a high school degree, and more than half of those whose parents had only a high school diploma (56 percent) were not enrolled in any preschool program, compared with half of those who parents had some college (50 percent), and just over a third (35 percent) of children whose parents had at least a bachelor’s degree. Both full-day and part-day enrollment is more common among children whose parents have a bachelor’s degree. (Figure 3) While these proportions have remained relatively steady for most parental education groups, the proportion of children whose parents have a bachelor’s degree who were not in preschool decreased between 1994 and 2002, from 43 to 30 percent. However, the proportion has increased since then, and was at 36 percent in 2013. (Appendix 2)
Children with two native-born parents are more likely to attend full-day preschool or pre-kindergarten than are children with one or more foreign-born parents. For instance, in 2013, 27 percent of children with two native-born parents attended full-day, compared with 24 percent of children with at least one foreign-born parent. For part-day attendance, these proportions were not significantly different. (Appendix 1)
Children from more affluent families were more likely than other children to be enrolled in full-day preschool programs. For example, in 2013, 32 percent of children ages three to five living in households with incomes of $75,000 or more were enrolled in a full-day program, compared with between 21 and 24 percent of children who lived in families with incomes between $15,000 and just under $75,000. (Appendix 1) Only 36 percent of children in these high-income families did not attend any preschool program in 2013, compared with 48 percent of children with family incomes between $50,000 and $74,999, and between 53 and 55 percent of children with family incomes below $50,000. (Appendix 2)
The proportion of children not attending any pre-school or pre-kindergarten program has generally increased since 1996 among those with family incomes of $30,000 or more, and remained steady among those with family incomes less than that. (Appendix 2)
Children in the West are the least likely to be enrolled in any preschool program. In 2013, 53 percent of children in the West were not enrolled in any program, compared with 48 percent of those in the South, and 41 and 43 percent of those in the Midwest and Northeast, respectively. Children in the South and Northeast are the most likely to be in full-day programs (32 and 30 percent, respectively, compared with 24 percent in the Midwest and 18 percent in the West). (Figure 4)
State-level data on Head Start and prekindergarten enrollment, as well as information on spending, quality, and access measures, are available from the National Institute for Early Education Research, in its Annual State Preschool Yearbooks.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) publishes data on enrollment of three- and four-year-olds in public or private early education programs, as a percentage of the population in that age group. The latest data table is available here, Table C1. 1a.
This indicator includes all children, ages three to five, whose parents named nursery school (prekindergarten or preschool) as the grade they were attending. Parents were then asked to specify full-day or part-day. Because of the way the question was phrased, parents may have included a wide variety of childcare options when responding that their child participated in ‘nursery school.’
Children ages three to five who were enrolled in kindergarten or higher grades were excluded from all estimates.
Child Trends’ original analyses of
data from the Current Population Survey, October Supplement, 1994-2013.
Current Population Survey, October Supplement
|Less than a high school degree||18.8||15.5||18.5||13.8||22.4||20.3||17.9||18.9||20.3||19.2||16.1||21.9||18.2||19.7||14.0||20.3|
|High school degree/equivalent||22.3||19.9||23.6||21.0||25.3||26.1||24.2||26.7||26.4||23.9||24.3||21.6||23.4||20.2||23.6||24.6|
|Some college/technical vocational degree||20.4||23.6||26.3||25.9||29.2||27.9||30.0||28.5||29.9||25.2||24.0||25.4||25.5||24.8||25.2||23.4|
|Bachelor’s degree or more||22.2||27.1||27.9||28.3||32.3||33.3||29.8||27.8||28.4||27.0||28.1||31.4||27.6||29.3||30.1||30.1|
|Both parents native-born||22.3||23.1||25.2||24.9||28.6||28.7||27.3||27.9||28.4||25.4||26.4||28.1||25.9||25.9||27.1||27.1|
|Less than $15,000||22.0||19.3||25.9||22.5||30.9||26.8||23.9||28.3||34.7||24.8||26.0||26.8||25.0||24.2||26.5||23.8|
|Type of School|
|Less than a high school degree||22.2||17.9||16.7||19.9||19.0||17.7||20.2||17.5||18.8||18.4||20.0||15.8||16.2||17.6||20.5||19.7|
|High school degree/equivalent||23.9||24.1||23.0||25.0||23.5||23.5||22.7||19.6||21.3||21.5||18.6||22.2||19.3||24.9||22.3||19.4|
|Some college/technical vocational degree||28.9||28.8||27.7||27.0||27.1||27.0||23.9||24.5||27.6||27.8||26.4||23.7||25.5||25.5||25.2||26.6|
|Bachelor’s degree or more||35.0||37.7||39.5||39.7||37.5||34.9||37.7||39.9||38.1||37.3||35.9||31.0||37.8||34.2||33.4||33.6|
|Both parents native-born||27.8||28.4||28.9||29.8||29.3||28.8||27.6||26.7||28.4||30.4||27.3||25.8||28.2||28.3||27.0||27.5|
|Less than $15,000||19.9||20.3||17.8||21.4||17.5||18.6||20.8||18.5||16.4||21.6||22.0||22.3||19.7||21.9||18.3||22.7|
|Type of School|
|Note: This indicator includes children ages three to five whose parents answered nursery school (prekindergarten or preschool) when asked what grade they were attending. Parents were then asked to specify full-day or part-day. Because of the way the question was phrased, parents may have included a wide variety of childcare options when responding that their child participated in ‘nursery school.’ Children ages three to five who were enrolled in kindergarten or higher grades were excluded from these estimates.Source: Child Trends’ original analyses of data from the Current Population Survey, October Supplement.
|Less than a high school degree||59.1||66.6||64.8||66.4||58.6||61.9||61.9||63.7||60.8||62.4||63.9||62.3||65.6||62.7||65.6||60.0|
|High school degree/equivalent||53.8||56.1||53.5||54.0||51.2||50.4||53.0||53.7||52.3||54.6||57.1||56.2||57.3||54.9||54.2||56.1|
|Some college/technical vocational degree||50.8||47.7||46.0||47.2||43.7||45.2||46.2||47.0||42.6||47.0||49.6||50.9||49.0||49.8||49.7||50.0|
|Bachelor’s degree or more||42.8||35.2||32.6||32.0||30.2||31.8||32.6||32.3||33.6||35.7||36.1||37.6||34.6||36.5||36.5||36.4|
|Both parents native-born||49.8||48.6||46.0||45.3||42.1||42.5||45.1||45.4||43.2||44.2||46.4||46.1||46.0||45.8||45.9||45.3|
|Less than $15,000||58.1||60.4||56.2||56.1||51.6||54.6||55.3||53.2||49.0||53.7||51.9||50.9||55.3||54.0||55.2||53.5|
|Note: This indicator includes children ages three to five whose parents answered nursery school (prekindergarten or preschool) when asked what grade they were attending. Parents were then asked to specify full-day or part-day. Because of the way the question was phrased, parents may have included a wide variety of childcare options when responding that their child participated in ‘nursery school.’ Children ages three to five who were enrolled in kindergarten or higher grades were excluded from these estimates.Source: Child Trends’ original analyses of data from the Current Population Survey, October Supplement.|
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Hispanics may be of any race. Estimates for whites and blacks in this report do not include Hispanics.
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Last updated: February 2015