Much of the recent growth in the use of center care occurred among infants and toddlers under age three. As shown in Figure 4, there was a seven percentage point increase (from 12 to 19 percent) in the percent of infants and toddlers in centers between 1995 and 2005. The largest increase in center care occurred among two-year-olds (10 percentage points, from 18 to 28 percent; Figure 5). As Figure 3 shows, by 2005, two-year-olds were equally likely to be in center-based care as in non-center care arrangements.
Figure 5 highlights rates of center care participation from birth to age five and how these rates increased over time. Participation in center care was much higher among preschool-aged children (ages three and four) than infants and toddlers across this time period. However, compared to infants and toddlers, there was a smaller increase in preschooler center care enrollment rates. There was no significant increase in the use of center care among three-year-olds alone, according to either the NHES or CPS, but four-year-olds increased center/preschool enrollment by approximately five percentage points (from 64 to 69 percent according to NHES and 59 to 63 percent according to CPS).
As mentioned above, while rates of center care use increased, there was a corresponding decline in the use of non-center care (see Figures 2, 3, and 4). As might be expected considering the relatively larger increase in center care participation among infants and toddlers, the concurrent decrease in the use of non-center care was also larger for infants and toddlers than for preschoolers. According to the NHES, infants and toddlers experienced a seven percentage point decrease (from 37 percent to 30 percent) in the use of non-center care from 1995 to 2005 (NHES Tables 1.1). The decline in non-center care among preschoolers was only three percentage points (from 20 to 17 percent, NHES Table 1.7). Overall, the data suggest a gradual substitution towards center-based care in place of non-center care for successive cohorts of young children during this period.