Indicators

Preschool and Kindergarten Enrollment
(Last Updated: May 2016)

In 2014, the overall percentage of 3- to 5-year-olds enrolled in preschool programs was higher for children whose parents had a graduate or professional degree (49 percent), as compared to those whose parents had a bachelor’s degree (43 percent), an associate’s degree (38 percent), some college (35 percent), a high school credential (32 percent), and less than a high school credential (28 percent).

Preprimary programs are groups or classes that are organized to provide educational experiences for children and include kindergarten and preschool programs.1 Child care programs that are not primarily designed to provide educational experiences, such as daycare programs, are not included in preprimary programs. From 1990 to 2014, the percentage of 3- to 5-year-olds enrolled in preprimary programs increased from 59 to 65 percent, with all of the growth occurring during the earlier part of the period, between 1990 and 2000.


Figure 1. Percentage of 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old children enrolled in preprimary programs: 1990 through 2014

Figure 1. Percentage of 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old children enrolled in preprimary programs: 1990 through 2014


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 1994, new procedures were used in the Current Population Survey to collect preprimary enrollment data. As a result, pre-1994 data may not be comparable to data from 1994 or later. Data are based on sample surveys of the civilian noninstitutionalized population.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (CPS), October 1990 through 2014. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 202.10.


The percentages of 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds enrolled in preprimary programs in 2014 (43 and 66 percent, respectively) were higher than the percentages enrolled in 1990 (33 and 56 percent, respectively), but were not measurably different from the percentages enrolled in 2000 and 2013. In contrast, the percentage of 5-year-olds enrolled in preprimary programs declined from 89 percent in 1990 to 85 percent in 2014. The percentage of 5-year-olds enrolled in preprimary programs in 2014 was not measurably different from the percentage enrolled in 2013.


Figure 2. Percentage of 3- to 5-year-old children in preprimary programs attending full-day programs, by program type: 1990 through 2014

Figure 2. Percentage of 3- to 5-year-old children in preprimary programs attending full-day programs, by program type: 1990 through 2014


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 1994, new procedures were used in the Current Population Survey to collect preprimary enrollment data. As a result, pre-1994 data may not be comparable to data from 1994 or later. Data are based on sample surveys of the civilian noninstitutionalized population.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (CPS), October 1990 through 2014. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 202.10.


The percentage of 3- to 5-year-olds in preschool programs who attended for the full day increased from 34 percent in 1990 to 49 percent in 2014, with all of the growth occurring during the earlier part of the period, between 1990 and 2000. The percentage of 3- to 5-year-old children in kindergarten programs who attended for the full day nearly doubled between 1990 and 2014, increasing from 44 percent to 80 percent. The percentage in 2014 was also higher than the percentage in 2013 (76 percent).


Figure 3. Percentage of 3- to 5-year-old children enrolled in preschool programs, by child age and attendance status: October 2014

Figure 3. Percentage of 3- to 5-year-old children enrolled in preschool programs, by child age and attendance status: October 2014


NOTE: Enrollment data include only those children in preschool programs and do not include those enrolled in kindergarten or primary programs. Data are based on sample surveys of the civilian noninstitutionalized population. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (CPS), October 2014. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 202.20.


In 2014, most 3- to 4-year old children who were enrolled in preprimary programs attended preschool programs, while most 5-year-old children who were enrolled in preprimary programs attended kindergarten. A higher percentage of 4-year-olds (59 percent) than of 3-year-olds (41 percent) attended preschool, and both percentages were higher than the percentage of 5-year-olds who attended preschool (14 percent)–a pattern which emerged across both part-day and full-day attendance status.


Figure 4. Percentage of 3- to 5-year-old children enrolled in preschool programs, by race/ethnicity and attendance status: October 2014

Figure 4. Percentage of 3- to 5-year-old children enrolled in preschool programs, by race/ethnicity and attendance status: October 2014


! Interpret data with caution. The coefficient of variation (CV) for this estimate is between 30 and 50 percent.
‡ Reporting standards not met. Either there are too few cases for a reliable estimate or the coefficient of variation (CV) is 50 percent or greater.
NOTE: Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Enrollment data include only those children in preschool programs and do not include those enrolled in kindergarten or primary programs. Data are based on sample surveys of the civilian noninstitutionalized population. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (CPS), October 2014. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 202.20.


In 2014, a lower percentage of Hispanic 3- to 5-year-olds (32 percent) were enrolled in preschool programs than of White (41 percent) and Black (39 percent) 3- to 5-year-olds. In terms of attendance status, a higher percentage of White (24 percent) and Asian (20 percent) children attended preschool part-day than of Hispanic (14 percent) and Black (12 percent) children in 2014. Additionally, a higher percentage of children of Two or more races attended preschool part-day (20 percent) than of Black children. A higher percentage of Black children attended preschool for the full day (27 percent) than the percentages of children who were Asian (20 percent), Hispanic (18 percent), White (17 percent), and of Two or more races (16 percent).


Figure 5. Percentage of 3- to 5-year-old children enrolled in preschool programs, by parents’ highest level of education and attendance status: October 2014

Figure 5. Percentage of 3- to 5-year-old children enrolled in preschool programs, by parents’ highest level of education and attendance status: October 2014


NOTE: Enrollment data include only those children in preschool programs and do not include those enrolled in kindergarten or primary programs. Parents’ highest level of education is defined as the highest level of education attained by the most educated parent who lives in the household with the child. Data are based on sample surveys of the civilian noninstitutionalized population. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (CPS), October 2014. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 202.20.


Enrollment in preschool 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 2014, the overall percentage of 3- to 5-year-olds enrolled in preschool programs was higher for those children whose parents had a graduate or professional degree (49 percent), as compared to those whose parents had a bachelor’s degree (43 percent), an associate’s degree (38 percent), some college (35 percent), a high school credential (32 percent), and less than a high school credential (28 percent). The overall preschool enrollment percentage was also higher for those children whose parents had a bachelor’s degree than for those whose parents had some college, a high school credential, and less than a high school credential.

The percentage of 3- to 5-year-olds enrolled in preschool programs who attended full-day or part-day programs also varied by parents’ highest level of education. In 2014, enrollment in part-day preschool programs was higher for those children whose parents had a graduate or professional degree (26 percent), a bachelor’s degree (23 percent), and an associate’s degree (22 percent), as compared to the part-day preschool enrollment rates for children whose parents’ highest level of education was some college (15 percent), a high school credential (16 percent), and less than a high school credential (12 percent). For full-day preschool enrollment, the percentage was higher for those children whose parents had a graduate or professional degree (23 percent) than for those children whose parents had an associate’s degree (16 percent), a high school credential (16 percent), and less than a high school credential (16 percent).


Figure 6. Percentage of 3- to 4-year-old children enrolled in school, by OECD country: 2013

Figure 6. Percentage of 3- to 4-year-old children enrolled in school, by OECD country: 2013


NOTE: Enrollment rates should be interpreted with care. For each country, this figure shows the number of persons who are enrolled in that country as a percentage of that country’s total population in the 3- to 4-year-old age group. However, some of a country’s population may be enrolled in a different country, and some persons enrolled in the country may be residents of a different country. Enrollment rates may be underestimated for countries such as Luxembourg that are net exporters of students and may be overestimated for countries that are net importers. “OECD average” refers to the mean of the data values for all reporting Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, to which each country reporting data contributes equally.
SOURCE: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Education at a Glance 2015. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 601.35.


In 2013, some 54 percent of 3- to 4-year-olds in the United States were enrolled in school, compared to the average of 81 percent enrollment for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries. Among the 31 OECD countries reporting data that year, the percentage of 3- to 4-year-olds enrolled in school ranged from 22 percent in Turkey and Switzerland to 100 percent in Israel and France.


1 Preschool programs are also known as nursery school programs.


Glossary Terms

Data Source

October CPS