Trends in the Use of Early Care and Education, 1995-2011: Descriptive Analysis of Child Care Arrangements from National Survey Data. Executive Summary

03/31/2014

Over the past several decades, increasing maternal labor force participation and growing public recognition of the importance of early education for children’s development and school readiness have led to a large and steady increase in young children’s participation in early care and education programs.  Whereas in 1964 only 9.5 percent of three- and four-year-olds were enrolled in school, by 2011 that figure had grown to 52.4 percent (Snyder and Dillow, 2012).  There has been a contemporaneous growth in public investment in early childhood programs over the past few decades, including both federal programs (e.g., Head Start and child care subsidies) and state investments (e.g., state prekindergarten).

This report uses multiple years of data from two data sources—the Current Population Survey (CPS, 1995-2011) and the National Household Education Survey (NHES, 1995, 2001, 2005)—to examine trends in early care and education arrangements for young children over the past few decades.  Specifically, this report seeks to address the two main questions:

  1. What types of non-parental early care and education (ECE) arrangements were children enrolled in between 1995 and 2011, and how did enrollment patterns change over that period?
    1. What are the trends in the use of center and non-center ECE?
    2. What are the trends in the use of private ECE (with a family payment) and public ECE (without a family payment)?
    3. What are the trends in the use of full-time and part-time preschool for three- and four-year-old children?
  2. How do rates of participation in ECE and trends in the use of various ECE arrangements differ based on demographic characteristics, particularly:
    1. Child age
    2. Family income
    3. Maternal demographic characteristics: maternal employment, education, marital status, and nativity
    4. Race/ethnicity

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