The CPS showed an increase in public preschool enrollment among three- and four-year-old children and a corresponding decrease in private preschool enrollment between 1995 and 2011. As seen in Figure 14, public enrollment rose by nine percentage points from 20 percent in 1995 to 29 percent in 2011. Conversely, attendance in private preschools declined for this group from 27 percent in 1995 to 21 percent in 2011. Meanwhile, the NHES data, which covers only the 1995 to 2005 time period, showed no statistically significant changes in the rate of participation in either centers with or without payments for the same age group. A truncated section of the CPS from 1995 to 2005 (to correspond with the NHES time period) indicated that private preschool enrollment remained unchanged (consistent with NHES data), but it also showed an increase in public preschool enrollment during that time period (not consistent with NHES). Differences in survey wording and sample sizes may contribute to this contrast in the two datasets.
The trending increase in public preschool enrollment counterbalanced by declining private school enrollment found in the CPS data was apparent in each subgroup analyses, including by child age. However, this crossing trend was more pronounced for four-year-olds than three-year-olds. Three-year-olds increased attendance in public preschool by six percentage points from 12 to 18 percent during this time period (Figure 15), and four-year-olds increased by 12-percentage-points from 27 to 39 percent (Figure 16). Private enrollment decreased among three-year-olds by four percentage points from 23 to 19 percent (Figure 15), and by seven percentage-points among four-year-olds from 31 to 24 percent (Figure 16).
As Figure 16 shows, by the early 2000s, four-year-olds were more likely to be in public than private preschool and that spread widened to a 15-percentage point difference by 2011. The rapid increase in public preschool enrollment among four-year-olds that occurred throughout the early 2000s could reflect increasing public investment in prekindergarten during this time.