The 2019 National Survey of Early Care and Education (NSECE) is a set of four nationally representative surveys that describe the use, availability, and characteristics of early care and education (ECE) from multiple perspectives, including those from ECE providers (both center-based and home-based), the ECE workforce, and households with young children. As such, the data are useful for examining access to ECE, including measuring levels of access; comparing levels of access across family, child, or community characteristics; and, when compared to the 2012 NSECE, tracking changes in access over time.

This resource provides guidance to data users interested in using the 2019 NSECE to examine questions related to ECE access using a multi-dimensional, family-centric definition of access.1 Access to ECE is best understood as a multi-dimensional construct requiring the consideration of multiple family and provider characteristics simultaneously. When access is measured as a single dimension, such as number of slots or enrollment, many key factors that make that care accessible to families—such as cost, hours open, and fit between family and provider—are ignored, painting an incomplete picture of ECE access.

To support data users, this resource describes the following:

  • Design elements of the 2019 NSECE that allow data users to examine ECE access—examples of design elements include the ability to link provider, workforce, and household surveys and the option to conduct analyses with various geographic units
  • Variables in the 2019 NSECE that can be used to examine ECE access from a multi-dimensional, family-centric perspective
  • Analytic possibilities with public-use and restricted-use data—more information on accessing the restricted-use data can be found here.

This resource should be used as a supplement to existing NSECE documentation. Data users should thoroughly review each survey’s User’s Guide and Questionnaires and the 2019 NSECE methodology report2 to ensure they understand the data well, including appropriate variable interpretation and skip patterns. In the present resource, we highlight some, but not all, of the assumptions related to measuring ECE access in the 2019 NSECE’s design. For additional questions, data users may consult extensive resources about working with the NSECE data available on the Child and Family Data Archive or contact NORC at [email protected].

This brief is part of the Child Care and Early Education Policy and Research Analysis (CCEEPRA) project. CCEEPRA supports policy and program planning and decision-making with rigorous, research-based information.


References

1 Friese, S., Lin, V., Forry, N. & Tout, K. (2017). Defining and Measuring Access to High Quality Early Care and Education: A Guidebook for Policymakers and Researchers. OPRE Report #2017-08. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Available from: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/opre/report/defining-and-measuring-access-high-quality-early-care-and-education-ece-guidebook

2 National Survey of Early Care and Education Project Team (2022). 2019 National Survey of Early Care and Education Data Collection and Sampling Methodology Report. OPRE Report 2022-118, Washington DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Available from: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/opre/report/2019-national-survey-early-care-and-education-data-collection-and-sampling-methodology