DataBank Indicator

Preschool and Prekindergarten

Download Report

Among those children not yet enrolled in kindergarten, the percentage of three- to five-year olds enrolled in full-day prekindergarten and preschool programs increased from 21 percent in 1994 to 26 percent in 2013.

Importance

Involvement in high-quality center-based care, preschool, and prekindergarten programs can improve academic and behavioral outcomes for children when they reach kindergarten.[1],[2] 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.[3] Children who spend more hours in high-quality center-based care perform better in math and reading in the early grades of elementary school.[4] 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.[5] High-quality child care can be especially important in improving outcomes among children in families with low education or low incomes.[6]

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.[7],[8] 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.[9],[10],[11] There is also evidence that the externalizing behavior pattern does not apply to time spent in high-quality center-based care.[12] 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.[13]

Trends

103_fig1 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)

Differences by Race and Hispanic Origin[14]

103_fig2Black 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)

Differences by Parental Educational Attainment

103_fig3In 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)

Differences by Immigrant Status

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)

Differences by Family Income

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)

Differences by Region

103_fig4Children 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 and Local Estimates

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.

International Estimates

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.

National Goals

None.

Related Indicators

Definition

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.

Data Source

Child Trends’ original analyses of
data from the Current Population Survey, October Supplement, 1994-2013.

Raw Data Source

Current Population Survey, October Supplement

http://www.census.gov/cps/

 

Appendix 1 – Percentage of Three- to Five-Year-Olds, not in Kindergarten or Elementary School, Who are Enrolled in Prekindergarten or Preschool Programs: Selected Years, 1994-2013

1994 1995 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Full-Day  21.2  22.1  24.6  23.6  28.1  27.8  26.4  26.5  27.2  24.7  24.5  26.5  24.8  24.8  25.6  26.3
Gender
Male  21.5  22.7  24.3  23.6  28.0  28.4  26.4  26.5  27.9  23.8  24.0  25.3  24.8  25.6  24.6  25.5
Female  20.9  21.4  24.8  23.5  28.1  27.2  26.3  26.5  26.4  25.6  25.0  27.7  24.8  24.1  26.6  27.2
Race/Hispanic Origin
Non-Hispanic white  20.2  21.0  22.2  21.0  25.6  26.4  24.6  24.5  24.9  23.4  24.5  24.7  23.4  24.9  25.1  25.2
Non-Hispanic black  33.7  30.8  40.4  39.9  41.9  40.2  41.2  41.8  41.9  35.1  35.5  43.5  39.5  34.7  38.5  38.6
Hispanic  16.0  18.2  18.8  19.8  24.6  24.3  18.4  22.6  24.8  21.2  17.5  19.3  19.6  18.6  19.4  22.0
Parental Education
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
 (full-day) 1994 1995 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Immigrant Status
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
Foreign-born parent(s)  15.0  17.3  22.5  18.6  26.5  24.4  23.2  22.3  23.4  22.5  18.7  21.7  22.0  21.6  20.9  23.9
Household Income
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
$15,000-$29,999  19.2  19.8  23.5  20.6  25.3  25.2  23.5  23.8  25.5  24.6  20.0  24.9  22.9  19.0  20.5  21.9
$30,000-$49,999  18.4  20.7  19.7  22.8  26.0  24.3  23.4  25.0  27.1  20.2  20.2  21.7  24.2  21.9  22.5  24.2
$50,000-$74,999  27.5  28.6  24.8  24.4  25.1  27.4  24.3  25.2  23.3  24.3  22.9  25.0  22.4  22.9  24.7  24.0
$75,000+  25.8  26.3  30.7  27.7  33.1  36.1  30.1  31.0  31.1  27.7  30.7  31.3  27.8  31.4  30.5  31.7
Region
Northeast  18.5  19.1  26.8  25.3  33.6  32.7  29.8  27.5  26.5  29.4  29.0  29.2  30.0  28.7  26.4  29.6
Midwest  15.4  17.3  21.5  19.3  22.4  22.7  18.5  22.7  22.1  17.7  20.4  21.4  20.3  20.1  22.1  23.7
South  29.1  30.4  32.2  30.0  33.2  33.1  33.1  31.3  33.7  30.8  29.6  31.6  29.1  31.9  31.2  31.7
West  18.0  17.0  15.7  17.2  22.3  21.5  21.1  22.2  21.7  18.2  17.5  21.2  18.9  16.2  18.8  18.1
Type of School
Public  43.0  47.1  50.0  46.3  52.4  51.7  50.0  53.5  54.5  47.6  46.9  51.4  49.1  47.5  47.1  49.1
Private  44.8  43.4  44.7  44.5  48.0  50.3  49.6  46.5  44.8  45.3  49.1  51.9  46.3  47.4  51.0  49.6
1994 1995 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Part-Day  27.0  26.9  27.3  28.4  27.8  26.7  26.6  26.3  27.1  28.3  26.7  24.8  27.0  27.5  26.9  27.0
Gender
Male  27.9  26.9  26.4  27.8  28.4  27.6  27.1  25.8  27.1  28.1  26.7  24.8  27.2  27.2  27.3  27.0
Female  26.1  27.0  28.3  29.0  27.1  25.7  26.1  26.7  27.2  28.5  26.6  24.8  26.9  27.7  26.6  27.1
Race/Hispanic Origin
Non-Hispanic white  31.7  32.4  32.7  34.0  33.4  33.2  31.3  33.3  32.6  32.3  31.3  30.0  32.8  31.9  31.3  31.9
Non-Hispanic black  16.0  14.9  18.2  20.2  16.5  13.1  16.4 10.9  14.0  20.7  16.3  12.9  12.5  20.2  15.5  17.6
Hispanic  13.9  17.4  16.8  17.9  18.6  17.9  22.8  19.0  22.1  24.6  22.1  20.4  21.7  22.9  24.0  21.6
Parental Education
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
(Part-day) 1994 1995 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Immigrant Status
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
Foreign-born parent(s)  22.4  20.0  22.0  22.9  22.2  19.1  23.2  24.8  23.3  22.2  24.9  22.0  23.9  25.0  26.7  25.6
Household Income
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
$15,000-$29,999  20.9  20.6  20.2  21.4  20.2  17.8  21.0  15.7  23.8  20.6  23.0  18.3  20.6  25.2  23.4  22.9
$30,000-$49,999  31.8  28.2  25.9  23.6  23.1  25.5  21.6  20.4  22.5  29.0  22.3  21.1  22.7  24.1  26.8  23.2
$50,000-$74,999  31.2  34.1  33.6  33.6  33.0  30.6  30.5  30.1  32.3  30.5  26.6  24.6  30.2  28.1  28.5  27.9
$75,000+  40.8  45.6  40.3  41.3  42.0  36.2  37.1  42.0  37.1  36.0  37.3  33.0  36.2  33.5  32.7  32.4
Region
Northeast  35.8  33.1  35.4  31.2  31.3  30.2  30.9  30.9  32.4  29.7  31.1  29.6  31.1  28.5  26.3  27.6
Midwest  34.6  35.7  34.6  37.1  34.3  34.5  36.1  32.4  32.1  34.3  31.4  31.2  32.4  35.7  34.2  35.1
South  18.7  18.4  18.4  20.5  22.1  19.8  19.2  20.5  19.7  23.1  18.7  16.6  19.2  21.1  22.6  20.7
West  24.4  25.9  26.9  29.0  27.0  27.0  25.9  25.7  30.8  30.1  32.1  28.8  31.7  28.9  28.0  29.1
Type of School
Public  57.0  53.0  50.0  53.8  47.6  48.3  50.0  46.5  45.5  52.4  53.1  48.6  50.9  52.5  52.9  50.9
Private  55.2  56.6  55.3  55.5  52.0  49.7  50.4  53.5  55.2  54.7  50.9  48.1  53.7  52.6  49.0  50.4
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.

Appendix 2 – Percentage of Three- to Five-Year-Olds, not in Kindergarten or Elementary School, Who are not Enrolled in Prekindergarten or Preschool Programs: Selected Years, 1994-2013

1994 1995 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Total  51.8  51.0  48.1  48.1  44.1  45.5  47.0  47.3  45.7  47.0  48.8  48.7  48.2  47.7  47.5  46.7
Gender
Male  50.6  50.4  49.3  48.6  43.5  44.1  46.5  47.7  45.0  48.0  49.3  49.9  48.0  47.3  48.1  47.5
Female  53.0  51.7  46.9  47.5  44.8  47.1  47.6  46.8  46.5  45.9  48.4  47.5  48.4  48.2  46.8  45.8
Race/Hispanic Origin
Non-Hispanic white  48.2  46.6  45.1  45.0  41.0  40.4  44.1  42.2  42.5  44.3  44.2  45.3  43.8  43.2  43.6  43.2
Non-Hispanic black  50.4  54.3  41.5  39.9  41.6  46.7  42.4  47.4  44.1  44.3  48.2  43.6  48.0  45.1  46.0  43.7
Hispanic  70.1  64.4  64.4  62.2  56.8  57.8  58.8  58.4  53.2  54.2  60.4  60.2  58.7  58.4  56.7  56.4
Parental Education
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
1994 1995 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Immigrant Status
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
Foreign-born parent(s)  62.6  62.7  55.6  58.5  51.4  56.6  53.6  52.9  53.3  55.3  56.4  56.4  54.1  53.4  52.7  50.5
Household Income
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
$15,000-$29,999  59.9  59.6  56.3  58.0  54.5  57.1  55.5  60.5  50.7  54.8  57.0  56.9  56.6  55.8  56.2  55.2
$30,000-$49,999  49.8  51.2  54.5  53.6  51.0  50.2  55.0  54.6  50.4  50.8  57.6  57.2  53.2  54.0  50.7  52.6
$50,000-$74,999  41.3  37.3  41.7  42.0  41.9  42.0  45.2  44.7  44.4  45.3  50.6  50.4  47.5  49.0  46.8  48.1
$75,000+  33.4  28.2  29.0  30.9  24.9  27.7  32.9  27.0  31.9  36.4  32.1  35.7  36.0  35.2  36.8  35.9
Region
Northeast  45.7  47.8  37.9  43.5  35.1  37.1  39.4  41.5  41.2  40.9  40.0  41.2  38.9  42.9  47.3  42.9
Midwest  50.1  47.0  43.9  43.3  43.3  42.8  45.5  44.9  45.8  47.9  48.3  47.4  47.3  44.2  43.6  41.2
South  52.2  51.2  49.5  49.5  44.7  47.0  47.7  48.1  46.6  46.1  51.7  51.8  51.8  47.0  46.2  47.6
West  57.6  57.1  57.4  53.8  50.7  51.5  53.0  52.1  47.4  51.7  50.4  50.0  49.4  55.0  53.2  52.8
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.

 

Endnotes


[1]Takanashi, R. (2004). Reconsidering when education begins. What happens before
kindergarten matters
. New York: Foundation for Child Development. Available
at: http://fcd-us.org/sites/default/files/ReconsideringWhenEducationBegins.pdf

[2]Owen, M. T., Klausli, J. F., Mata-Otero, A., & Caughy, M. O.
(2008). Relationship-focused child care practices: Quality of care and child
outcomes for children in poverty. Early Education and Development, 19(2),
302-329.

[3]Halle, T., Hair, E., Zaslow, M., Lavelle, B., Martin, L., Scott, E., et al.
(2005). The effect of type and extent of child care on low-income children’s
outcomes in kindergarten, first, and third grades.
Paper presented at the
Annual Meeting of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management,
Washington, DC. Available at: https://www.childtrends.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Child_Trends-2005_04_21_SP_EffectChildCare.pdf

[4]NICHD Early Child Care Research Network. (2002). Early child care and
children’s development prior to school entry: Results from the NICHD study of
early child care. American Educational Research Journal, 39(1): 133-164.
Available at http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/3202474.

[5]Campbell, F., Ramey, C. T., Pungello, E., Miller-Johnson, S., & Sparling,
J. J. (2002). Early childhood education: Young adult outcomes from the
Abecedarian Project. Applied developmental Science, 6(1), 42-57. DOI:10.1207/S1532480XADS0601_05

[6]Burchinal, M. R., Kainz, K., & Cai, Y. (2011). How well
are our measures of quality predicting to child outcomes: A meta-analysis and
coordinated analyses of data from large scale studies of early childhood
settings. In M. Zaslow, I. Martinez-Beck, K. Tout & T. Halle (Eds.), Measuring
quality in early childhood settings
. Baltimore: Brookes Publishing.

[7]McCartney, K., Burchinal, M. R., Clarke-Stewart, A., Bub, K. L.,
Owen, M. T., Belsky, J., & NICHD Early Child Care Research Network. (2010).
Testing a series of causal propositions relating time in child care to
children’s externalizing behavior. Developmental Psychology, 46(1),
1-17.

[8]National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2003). Does amount
of time spent in child care predict socioemotional adjustment during the
transition to kindergarten? Child Development, 74(4): 975-1005.
Available at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/3696198

[9]NICHD Early Child Care Research Network. (2006). Child-care effect
sizes for the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. American
Psychologist, 61
(2), 99-116.

[10]Halle, T., Hair, E., Zaslow, M., Lavelle, B., Martin, L., Scott, E., et al.
(2005). Op cit.

[11]Administration for Children and Families. (2006). Research
to practice: Preliminary findings from the Early Head Start prekindergarten
followup
. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Available at: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/opre/ehs/ehs_resrch/reports/prekindergarten_followup/prekindergarten_followup.pdf

[12]Vortruba-Drzal, E., Coley, R. L., & Chase-Lansdale, P. L.
(2004). Child care and low-income children’s development: Direct and moderated
effects. Child Development, 75, 296-312.

[13]Barnett,
W. S., Lamy, C. , & Jung, K. (2005). The effects of state prekindergarten
programs on young children’s school readiness in five states.  New Brunswick, NJ: The National Institute for
Early Education Research.

[14]Hispanics may be of any race. Estimates for whites and blacks in this report do not include Hispanics.

 

Suggested Citation:

Child Trends Databank. (2015). Preschool and prekindergarten. Available at: https://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=preschool-and-prekindergarten

 

Last updated: February 2015

 

Subscribe to Child Trends

Short weekly updates of recent research on children and youth.