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


While there was no change between 1995 and 2005 in the overall use of non-parental care, there was an increase in the use of center-based early care and education (ECE), and a corresponding decrease in the use of non-center care, according to the NHES.  As shown in Figure 1, center-based enrollment for all children under age five increased by an estimated six percentage points, from 28 percent in 1995 to 34 percent in 2005 (NHES Table 1.8).  During this same timeframe, there was a decrease in the use of non-center care arrangements from 30 to 25 percent.  The percent of children in any care arrangement (either center or non-center) remained fairly stable across this period, with approximately four out of ten children in no arrangement and six out of ten children enrolled in some non-parental care arrangement.

Figure 1. Children Under Age 5 Participating in Non-Parental Care, by Year and Care Type

The distribution of children in center, non-center, and no arrangement has consistently varied by child age.  As Figures 2 and 3 show, the likelihood that children attended non-parental care increased as they grew older.  Whereas over half of children in their first year of life were in some type of non-parental ECE arrangement, by time they reach four years of age, less than a quarter did not attend any ECE arrangement.  Similarly, across this time period, children’s enrollment in center care increased with age and their participation in non-center care decreased with age. 

The next section of this report will examine how trends in rates of participation in center and non-center care changed over time by child age, family income, and maternal employment status using data from both the NHES and CPS.  Further examination of demographic differences in ECE arrangements for preschool-aged children will be explored using CPS data on demographic characteristics such as maternal education, mother’s marital status, mother’s nativity, and race/ethnicity.  The subsequent sections also cover the use of private and public ECE by demographic subgroups of children as well as rates of full- and part-day preschool. 

Figure 2. Children Under Age 5 Participating in Non-Parental Care, by Type, 1995

Figure 3. Children Under Age 5 Participating in Non-Parental Care, by Type, 2005

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