Participating in center-based early childhood programs can help young children prepare for elementary school (Bredekamp and Copple 1997).8 In 2005, 57 percent of all 3- to 5-year-olds who were not in kindergarten were enrolled in center-based programs. The overall percentages of 3- to 5-year old children enrolled in center-based early childhood programs in 1995, 2001, and 2005 were not measurably different from each other, but were all lower than the percentage enrolled in 1999.
Research has suggested that intensive, high-quality preschool programs can have positive effects on the cognitive and academic development of low-income minority children, both in the short- and long-term (Campbell et al. 2001). Children from low-income families may not have the same access to preschool programs as children from higher-income families. Overall, in 2005, the percentage of children from poor families who were enrolled in these programs (47 percent) was lower than the percentage of children from nonpoor families who were enrolled (60 percent).9 Among children from poor families, the percentage of Black children who were enrolled (65 percent) was higher than the percentage for White (45 percent) or Hispanic children (36 percent). Among nonpoor children, higher percentages of Asian/Pacific Islander (73 percent), Black (68 percent), and White children (61 percent) were enrolled in center-based programs than was the case for Hispanic children (48 percent). The percentage of nonpoor Asian/Pacific Islander children who were enrolled was also higher than the percentages of their nonpoor American Indian/Alaska Native (53 percent) and nonpoor White counterparts.