Ready or Not, Here They Come: The Kindergarten Class of 2013

BlogAug 21 2013

About four million U.S. children will start kindergarten this fall.1 We know that learning begins long before children start school. The kindergartners who will gain the most from their school experience are those whose families and communities have given them a good foundation—proper health, social skills, emotional security, facility with language, a zest for discovering new things.

Let’s imagine a hypothetical community’s kindergartners. We’ve assembled the best available statistics that are nationally representative of five- and six-year-olds. The data don’t tell us all we’d like to know, by any means; but, they paint a revealing portrait. And, of course, any real community’s kindergarten class will vary—perhaps greatly—from this “average” class.

Of 100 children entering kindergarten in the fall of 2013:

  • 98 “usually” or “always” smile or laugh a lot.2
  • 94 “usually” or “always” show interest and curiosity in learning new things.3
  • 93 “usually” or “always” are tender and affectionate with a parent.4
  • 89 are attending public schools; 11 are in private schools.5
  • 87 are between five and six years old; nine are older than six; and 4 are younger than five.6
  • 85 have parents who say their neighborhoods are “usually” or “always” safe. Ten years ago, there would have been 82.7
  • 84 use English as their primary language at home.8
  • 81 have one or both parents working full-time.9
  • 78 “usually” or “always” bounce back quickly when things don’t go their way.10
  • 76 live in a two-parent household; 21 live with their mothers only; two live with their fathers only.11
  • 75 received at least some breastfeeding as infants.12
  • 58 saw a dentist in the past year. Ten years ago, there would have been 42.13
  • 55 had some experience with center-based care as their primary care arrangement prior to kindergarten; 21 had no regular non-parental care arrangement prior to kindergarten; 15 were in home-based care with a relative; 6 were in home-based care with a non-relative.14
  • 54 ate meals together with all family members every day during the past week. Ten years ago, there would have been 53.15
  • 52 are non-Hispanic white, 23 are Hispanic, 16 are black, five are Asian/Pacific Islander, one is American Indian/Alaska Native, and two are of multiple races. Ten years ago, there would have been 61 non-Hispanic white children, 16 Hispanic children, 17 black children, four Asian/Pacific Islander children, and one American Indian/Alaska Native.16
  • 49 spend one or more hours on an average weekday watching television programs or videos, or playing video games.17
  • 48 were read to by a family member every day during the past week. Ten years ago, there would have been 45.18
  • 45 are covered by some type of public-assisted health insurance.19
  • 32 have one or more parents whose education extends to some college or post-secondary vocational training; 20 have parents with a bachelor’s degree; 20 have a parent whose highest level of education is high school; 18 have a parent with some graduate (post-college) education; and nine have a parent who did not finish high school.20
  • 27 are overweight or obese. Ten years ago, there would have been 23.21
  • 27 are in families receiving SNAP benefits (food stamps).  Ten years ago, there would have been 12. (Note: The increase is the result of expanded eligibility in 2008, and economic conditions.)22
  • 25 live in families with incomes below the poverty level, and an additional 22 are from “low-income” families.23
  • 24 are immigrants or children of immigrants. Ten years ago, there would have been 23.24
  • 12 have at least one limitation/disability. Ten years ago, there would have been 9.25
  • 11 have asthma. Ten years ago, there would have been 10.26
  • 10 don’t use any safety restraints (seat belt, car seat) when riding in a car.27
  • 9 have a special health care need, according to parents.28
  • 8 were low birthweight babies (less than five-and-a-half pounds at birth), a risk to optimal development that will persist into adulthood.29
  • 1 was the victim of substantiated abuse or neglect in the past year.30

References for the statistics above can be found at