Trends in the Well-Being of America's Children and Youth, 1997. EA 1.1 Early childhood program enrollment

04/01/1997

Enrollment in an early childhood program is one indicator of readiness to learn that may be especially relevant for children from disadvantaged backgrounds for elementary school. One of the National Education Goals for the year 2000, adopted by Congress, is that "all children will have access to high-quality and developmentally appropriate preschool programs that help prepare children for school.1 Table EA 1.1 presents the percentage of 3- to 5-year-olds enrolled in center-based programs.2 Center-based programs include day care centers, Head Start programs, preschools, prekindergartens, and other early childhood programs.

In 1996, over half (55 percent) of all 3- to 5-year old children were enrolled in a center-based program. This reflects a modest increase from 53 percent in 1991 and 1993 (see Table EA 1.1).

Differences by Race and Ethnicity. 3There are notable differences in early childhood program enrollment rates among racial and ethnic groups. For example, in 1996, only 39 percent of Hispanic children were enrolled in an early childhood program compared with 57 percent of whites and 65 percent of blacks. Throughout the 1990s, black 3- to 5-year olds have had the highest enrollments in early childhood programs, followed closely by whites, with much lower enrollments among Hispanics (see Figure EA 1.1.A).

Differences by Family Type. In 1996, center-based enrollments were lower among children in two parent families (54 percent) than among children with either one or no parents (58 percent) (see Figure EA 1.1.B).

Differences by Socioeconomic Status. There are substantial differences in center-based enrollments by socioeconomic status, including poverty status and maternal education (see Figure EA 1.1.B).

  • In 1996, enrollments were much higher among families that were above the poverty threshold (60 percent) than those who were at or below the poverty threshold (43 percent).
  • Enrollments also differ by maternal education, with the highest enrollment (73 percent) among children whose mothers were college graduates and the lowest (37 percent) among children whose mothers lacked a high school diploma.

These differences by socioeconomic status were apparent for all years reported (see Table EA 1.1).

Differences by Mothers Employment Status. There are also differences in enrollments by maternal employment status (see Figure EA 1.1.B). For example, in 1996, children whose mothers were working either full time (35 hours or more per week) or part time (less than 35 hours per week) had substantially higher enrollments than children whose mothers were not in the labor force. These differences have been apparent since 1991.
 

Figure EA 1.1.A  
Percentage of 3- to 5-Year-Olds Enrolled in Center-Based Programs, by Race/Ethnicity: 1991, 1993, 1995, and 1996  

EA1_1A.GIF

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 1991, 1993, 1995, and 1996 National Household Education Survey.
 

Figure EA 1.1.B  
Percentage of 3- to 5-Year-Olds Enrolled in Center-Based Programs, by Poverty Status, Family Type, and Mother's Employment Status: 1996  

EA1_1B.GIF

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 1996 National Household Education Survey.
 

Table EA 1.1
Percentage of 3- to 5-Year-Oldsa Enrolled in Center-Based Programs,b
by Child and Family Characteristics: 1991, 1993, 1995, and 1996
 

 
 
 
 
1991 
1993 
1995 
1996 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Total
53 
53 
55 
55 
 
Gender
 
 
Male
53 
53 
55 
55 
 
 
Female
53 
53 
55 
55 
 
 
Race/Ethnicity
 
 
White, non-Hispanic
54 
54 
57 
57 
 
 
Black, non-Hispanic
58 
57 
60 
65 
 
 
Hispanic
39 
43 
37 
39 
 
 
Poverty Statusc
 
 
Non-poor
56 
57 
60 
60 
 
 
Poor
44 
43 
44 
43 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Family Type
 
 
Two parents
54 
52 
55 
54 
 
 
One or no parent
50 
54 
56 
58 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Mothers Educationd
 
 
Less than high school
32 
33 
35 
37 
 
 
High school/GED
46 
43 
48 
49 
 
 
Vocational/technical or some college
60 
60 
57 
58 
 
 
College graduate
72 
73 
75 
73 
 
 
Mothers Employment Statusd
 
 
35 hours or more per week
59 
61 
60 
63 
 
 
Less than 35 hours per week
58 
57 
62 
64 
    Not in labor force
45 
44 
47 
43 
 
Notes: aEstimates are based on children who have yet to enter kindergarten. bCenter-based programs include day care centers, Head Start programs, preschools, prekindergartens, and other early childhood programs. 

cChildren were classified as non-poor (living above the poverty threshold) or poor (living below the poverty threshold), based on family size and income. See Wright, D., Hausken, E.G., and West, J. (1994). Family-Child Engagement in Literacy Activities: Changes in Participation Between 1991 and 1993. Washington, D.C: U.S. Department of Education. National Center for Education Statistics. 

dChildren without mothers in the home are not included in estimates dealing with mothers education or mothers employment status. A mother is defined as a biological mother, adoptive mother, stepmother, foster mother, or female guardian (e.g., grandmother) who resides in the home with the child. 

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 1991, 1993, 1995, and 1996, National Household Education Survey. 

 

1National Education Goals Panel (1994). The National Education Goals Report: Building a Nation of Learners 1994. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

2 Estimates are based on children who have yet to enter kindergarten.

3 Estimates for whites and blacks exclude Hispanics of those races.
 

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