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Preprimary education enrollment

Question:
What percentage of children are enrolled in preprimary education?

Response:

Research has shown that children’s lifelong well-being is positively associated with early childhood services, including formal schooling such as preschool and kindergarten; this relationship is especially noteworthy among children at greater risk of poor outcomes for lifelong well-being.1 As formal schooling is an important component of early childhood services, this Fast Fact looks at the school enrollment rates of 3- to 5-year-olds. This Fast Fact also compares enrollment rates by various child and family characteristics, within the 3- to 4-year-old and 5-year-old age groups. In this Fast Fact, children who were reported to have attended school in the 3 months preceding the survey are considered to be enrolled in school. Respondents were instructed to include only nursery or preschool, kindergarten, elementary school, or home school.2

In 2019, about 61 percent of 3- to 5-year-olds were enrolled in school, overall. The enrollment rate was lower for 3- to 4-year-olds than for 5-year-olds (49 vs. 86 percent). Among 3- to 4-year-olds, the percentage enrolled in school was 1 percentage point higher in 2019 than in 2010 (49 vs. 48 percent). For 5-year-olds, however, the enrollment rate in 2019 was not measurably different from 2010.

The enrollment rate varied across racial/ethnic groups3 in 2019. Among 3- to 4-year-olds, the enrollment rate was higher for Asian children (56 percent) than for children who were Black (53 percent), of Two or more races (51 percent), and White (50 percent); these rates were all higher than the enrollment rates for children who were American Indian/Alaska Native (45 percent), Hispanic (43 percent), and Pacific Islander (39 percent). In addition, the enrollment rate among 3- to 4-year-olds was higher for Black children than for White children. Fewer measurable differences by race/ethnicity were observed in the enrollment rates of 5-year-olds than in the rates of 3- to 4-year-olds. Among 5-year-olds, the enrollment rate was higher for Asian children (89 percent) than for children from most other racial/ethnic groups; the exception was that the enrollment rate for Asian children was not measurably different from that for Black children (87 percent). In addition, the enrollment rate among 5-year-olds was higher for Black children than for children of Two or more races (87 vs. 84 percent). In 2019, enrollment rates did not measurably differ by sex for either 3- to 4-year-olds (49 percent each for males and females) or 5-year-olds (86 percent each for males and females).


Percentage of 3- to 4-year-olds and 5-year-olds enrolled in school, by race/ethnicity: 2019

The data in this figure is described in the surrounding text.

NOTE: Data are based on sample surveys of the entire population residing within the United States, including those living in group quarters (e.g., shelters, healthcare facilities, or correctional facilities). This figure excludes respondents who wrote in some other race that was not included as an option on the questionnaire. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.


1 Cannon, J.S., Kilburn, M.R., Karoly, L.A., Mattox, T., Muchow, A.N., and Buenaventura, M. (2017). Investing Early: Taking Stock of Outcomes and Economic Returns From Early Childhood Programs. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation. Retrieved December 8, 2020, from https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1993.html.

2 Children in private homes in which essentially custodial care is provided are not considered to be enrolled in school.

3 Analyses by race/ethnicity exclude respondents who wrote in some other race that was not included as an option on the questionnaire.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2021). The Condition of Education 2021 (NCES 2021-144), Enrollment Rates of Young Children.

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