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Child care

What are the most prevalent forms of early child care and education environments for children the year before they enter kindergarten?

Young children experience various types of early care and education environments the year before they enter kindergarten. Some children attend center-based arrangements such as preschools, childcare centers, or Head Start programs, while others are cared for in relatives’ or nonrelatives’ homes or are normally cared for only by their parents.

The overall percentage of children ages 4 and 5 years old who attended center-based care as their primary early care and education (ECE) arrangement before kindergarten entry was higher in 2012 than in 1995 (58 vs. 55 percent), while the percentage of children who primarily received home-based nonrelative care as their primary ECE arrangement was lower in 2012 than in 1995 (7 vs. 11 percent). The overall percentages of children receiving home-based relative care as their primary ECE arrangement (13 percent) and those with no ECE arrangement on a regular basis (19 percent) in 2012 were not measurably different from the percentages in 1995.

First-time kindergartners’ academic skills and learning behaviors at the beginning of kindergarten were related to their primary ECE arrangement the year before kindergarten, after taking into account children’s sex, age at kindergarten entry, race/ethnicity, family type, primary home language, and SES. For example, kindergartners who had no regular ECE arrangements and mainly received care from their parents the year before kindergarten and those whose primary ECE arrangement was home-based relative care tended to score lower in reading, mathematics, and cognitive flexibility in the fall of kindergarten than their peers whose primary ECE arrangement was center-based care. In addition, fall kindergarten approaches to learning ratings were lower, on average, for children who had no regular ECE arrangements the year before kindergarten than for those who were primarily in home-based nonrelative care, center-based care, or multiple care arrangements for equal amounts of time.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2016). Primary Early Care and Education Arrangements and Achievement at Kindergarten Entry (NCES 2016-070).

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