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Early Childhood Education Statistics

This article includes early childhood education statistics for preschool children taught by their parents and those involved in early childhood education program. These statistics from the U.S. Department of Education Institute offer insight to the pros and cons of both forms of early childhood education.

The term "Early Childhood Education" raises some interesting points: Although preschool children receive education from many sources, including their parents (who often teach them one or two languages and may also teach them the alphabet, how to read and write the alphabet, basic mathematics skills, coloring, cutting, measuring, and basic science), the term is used in the United States to refer to programs outside the home, usually in Head Start, nursery schools, early learning centers, and preschools. Thus, it actually refers to children's involvement in the educational system or some formalized preschool program. In this article, we will use the child who is at home in the care of his or her parents for comparison with the child who is in some kind of early childhood education program.

One of the best sources of statistics on Early Childhood Education in this sense is the Digest of Educational Statistics available in a yearly edition from the United States Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences National Center of Education Statistics, (USDOE IES NCES). From the most recent report (2010), released in April of 2011, in which the most recent data (not necessarily from the 2010 calendar year) is reported, the following early childhood education statistics can be gleaned:

  • As of 2005, there were 20,665,000 children less than 6 years old who were not yet enrolled in kindergarten. Only 39.8% of these children were exclusively cared for by their parents, but exclusive parental care was more common the younger the child. For children under the age of one, 57.7% were cared for by their parents only, whereas for those age five, only 21.1% were solely in the care of their parents.
  • Overall in 2005, 36.1% of children from birth through age five were enrolled in center-based programs, of which Head Start programs made up about a sixth. Head Start was notably more in use for 4 year olds (13.2%) and 5 year olds (10.4%). Center-based care of some kind increased for older children. While only 12% of children under one were in some sort of center-based program, 69.2% of 4 year olds and 68.7% of 5 year olds were in center-based programs.
  • In 2003-2004, cognitive skills in 2 year olds - such as receptive and expressive vocabulary, listening comprehension, matching/discrimination, and early counting - were more prevalent, the higher the parents' level of education, with the ratings being for less than high school, completed high school, some college or vocational school, bachelor's degree, and any graduate degree. For motor skills, such as skillful walking, balance, use of stairs, fine motor control, and alternating balance, the educational advantage peaked at the bachelor's degree and fell slightly with a graduate degree. The attainment of all skills correlated positively with higher socioeconomic status.
  • In 2003-2004, for 2 year olds in various types of non-parental care, those with the cognitive skills mentioned above were mostly likely to be in center-based care, with the exception of early counting, which was seen most frequently with children in multiple care arrangements.  Children who demonstrated the motor skills were most likely to be either in center-based care or in home-based care of a non-relative (a baby sitter).
  • In 2005-2006, for 4 year olds, the scores on an early reading scale, expressive vocabulary, mathematics scale, color knowledge, and fine motor skill were highest for children in center-based care other than Head Start, as compared to those cared for exclusively by their parents, in the home by people other than their parents, or in multiple arrangements.
  • At the time of kindergarten entry, for children who entered kindergarten in the school years 2006-7 and 2007-8, scores on early reading scale were best for those children in center-based care other than Head Start; for mathematics scale, best for children in the care of a relative other than a parent, with center-based care other than Head Start a close second; and for fine motor skills, care of a relative other than a parent tied with center-based care other than Head Start.


Digest of Educational Statistics, 2010