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Preprimary Enrollment
(Last Updated: February 2014)

From 1990 to 2012, the percentage of 3- to 5-year-olds enrolled in preprimary programs increased from 59 to 64 percent. The percentage of these children who attended full-day programs increased from 39 to 60 percent during this period.

Preprimary programs are groups or classes that are organized to provide educational experiences for children and include kindergarten, preschool, and nursery school programs. From 1990 to 2012, the percentage of 3- to 5-year-olds enrolled in preprimary programs increased from 59 to 64 percent, with all of the growth occurring between 1990 and 2000. The percentages of 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in preprimary programs in 2012 (41 and 66 percent, respectively) were higher than the percentages in 1990 (33 and 56 percent, respectively) but not measurably different from the percentages in 2000 or 2011. In contrast, the percentage of 5-year-olds enrolled in preprimary programs declined from 89 percent in 1990 to 85 percent in 2012. The percentage of 5-year-olds enrolled in preprimary programs in 2012 was 3 points lower than the percentage in 2011 (85 vs. 87 percent).


Figure 1. Percentage of 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old children enrolled in preprimary programs: Selected years, 1990 through 2012

Percentage of 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old children enrolled in preprimary programs: Selected years, 1990 through 2012

NOTE: Preprimary programs are groups or classes that are organized to provide educational experiences for children and include kindergarten, preschool, and nursery school programs. Enrollment data for 5-year-olds include only those students in preprimary programs and do not include those enrolled in primary programs. Beginning in 1995, new procedures were used in the Current Population Survey to collect preprimary enrollment data. As a result, pre-1995 data may not be comparable to data from 1995 or later. Data are based on sample surveys of the civilian noninstitutional population.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (CPS), October 1990 through 2012. See Digest of Education Statistics 2013, table 202.10.


The percentage of 3- to 5-year-olds in preprimary programs who attended full-day programs increased from 39 percent in 1990 to 60 percent in 2012. This increase in full-day enrollment rate was also observed for 5-year-olds. More recently, the full-day enrollment rate was higher in 2012 (72 percent) than in 2000 (59 percent) for 5-year-olds, but the rate did not change measurably for 3- or 4-year-olds.


Figure 2. Percentage of 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old children in preprimary programs attending full day: Selected years, 1990 through 2012

Percentage of 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old children in preprimary programs attending full day: Selected years, 1990 through 2012

NOTE: Preprimary programs are groups or classes that are organized to provide educational experiences for children and include kindergarten, preschool, and nursery school programs. Enrollment data for 5-year-olds include only those students in preprimary programs and do not include those enrolled in primary programs. Beginning in 1995, new procedures were used in the Current Population Survey to collect preprimary enrollment data. As a result, pre-1995 data may not be comparable to data from 1995 or later. Data are based on sample surveys of the civilian noninstitutional population.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (CPS), October 1990 through 2012. See Digest of Education Statistics 2013, table 202.10.


Differences by age in enrollment in full-day preprimary programs have shifted over the past few decades. The 1990 full-day enrollment rate for 5-year-olds (42 percent) was not measurably different from the rate for 3-year-olds (37 percent) and was 8 points higher than the rate for 4-year-olds (34 percent). By 2012, the full-day enrollment rate for 5-year-olds (72 percent) was 21 percentage points higher than the rates for 3- or 4-year-olds (51 percent each).


Figure 3. Percentage of 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old children enrolled in preprimary programs, by parents' highest level of education and children's attendance status: October 2012

Percentage of 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old children enrolled in preprimary programs, by parents' highest level of education and children's attendance status: October 2012

NOTE: Preprimary programs are groups or classes that are organized to provide educational experiences for children and include kindergarten, preschool, and nursery school programs. Enrollment data for 5-year-olds include only those students in preprimary programs and do not include those enrolled in primary programs. Highest level of education is defined as the diploma attained by the most educated parent. Data are based on sample surveys of the civilian noninstitutional population.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (CPS), October 2012. See Digest of Education Statistics 2013, table 202.20.


Enrollment in preprimary programs varied by parents' highest level of education, defined as the highest level of education attained by the most educated parent in the child's household. In 2012, the percentage of 3- to 5-year-olds who were enrolled in preprimary programs was generally higher for those whose parents had either a graduate or professional degree (75 percent) or a bachelor's degree (69 percent) than for children whose parents had lower levels of educational attainment. For instance, 54 percent of children whose parents had less than a high school credential and 60 percent of children whose parents had a high school credential were enrolled in preprimary programs. Enrollment in full-day and part-day preprimary programs also differed by the highest educational attainment of parents or guardians. Forty-three percent of 3- to 5-year-olds whose parents had a graduate or professional degree were enrolled in full-day preprimary programs, an enrollment rate higher than for children whose parents had less than a high school credential (33 percent) or a high school credential (37 percent). Enrollment rates in part-day preprimary programs were also higher for children whose parents had a graduate or professional degree (31 percent) or a bachelor's degree (29 percent) than for children whose parents had less than a high school credential (20 percent) or a high school credential (23 percent).


Glossary terms: Nursery school
Data Source: Current Population Survey (CPS)


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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education