Indicators

Preprimary Enrollment
(Last Updated: May 2015)

The percentage of 3- to 5-year-olds enrolled in preprimary programs increased from 59 to 64 percent between 1990 and 2000, but there has been no measurable increase since then. The percentage of these children who attended full-day programs increased from 39 to 60 percent between 1990 and 2013 overall, although the 2013 full-day enrollment rate was not measurably different from the 2012 rate.

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 2013, the percentage of 3- to 5-year-olds enrolled in preprimary programs increased from 59 to 65 percent, with all of the growth occurring between 1990 and 2000.


Figure 1. Percentage of 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old children enrolled in preprimary programs: 1990 through 2013

Figure 1. Percentage of 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old children enrolled in preprimary programs: 1990 through 2013

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 noninstitutional population.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (CPS), October 1990 through 2013. See Digest of Education Statistics 2014, table 202.10.


The percentages of 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in preprimary programs in 2013 (42 and 68 percent, respectively) were higher than the percentages enrolled in 1990 (33 and 56 percent, respectively) but not measurably different from the percentages enrolled in 2000 or 2012. In contrast, the percentage of 5-year-olds enrolled in preprimary programs declined from 89 percent in 1990 to 84 percent in 2013. The percentage of 5-year-olds enrolled in preprimary programs in 2013 was not measurably different from the percentage enrolled in 2012 (84 and 85 percent, respectively).


Figure 2. Percentage of 3- to 4-year-old children and 5-year-old children in preprimary programs attending full-day programs: 1990 through 2013

Figure 2. Percentage of 3- to 4-year-old children and 5-year-old children in preprimary programs attending full-day programs: 1990 through 2013

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 noninstitutional population.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (CPS), October 1990 through 2013. See Digest of Education Statistics 2014, 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 2013. This increase in the full-day enrollment rate was observed for 3- to 4-year-olds as well as 5-year-olds. More recently, the full-day enrollment rate was higher in 2013 (73 percent) than in 2000 (59 percent) for 5-year-olds, but the rate did not change measurably for 3- to 4-year-olds. Enrollment rates in full-day preprimary programs increased more rapidly between 1990 and 2013 for 5-year-old children than for 3- to 4-year-old children. In 1990, the percentage of full-day enrollment for 5-year-olds (42 percent) was 7 percentage points higher than the percentage of full-day enrollment for 3- to 4-year-olds (35 percent). By 2013, the percentage of full-day enrollment for 5-year-olds (73 percent) was 22 percentage points higher than the percentage of full-day enrollment for 3- to 4-year-olds (51 percent).


Figure 3. Percentage of 3- to 5-year-old children enrolled in preprimary programs, by race/ethnicity and level of program: October 2013

Figure 3. Percentage of 3- to 5-year-old children enrolled in preprimary programs, by race/ethnicity and level of program: October 2013

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. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Data are based on sample surveys of the civilian noninstitutional population. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (CPS), October 2013. See Digest of Education Statistics 2014, table 202.20.


In 2013, some 38 percent of 3- to 5-year olds were enrolled in preschool programs and 27 percent were enrolled in kindergarten programs. A lower percentage of Hispanic 3- to 5-year-olds (31 percent) were enrolled in preschool programs than of 3- to 5-year-olds who were White (41 percent), Black (37 percent), Asian (41 percent), or Two or more races (44 percent). A higher percentage of Black 3- to 5-year-olds (33 percent) were enrolled in kindergarten than of White (25 percent), Hispanic (27 percent), and Asian (23 percent) 3- to 5-year-olds.


Figure 4. Percentage of 3- to 5-year-old children enrolled in preprimary programs, by parents' highest level of education and level of program: October 2013

Figure 4. Percentage of 3- to 5-year-old children enrolled in preprimary programs, by parents' highest level of education and level of program: October 2013

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. Parents' 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 2013. See Digest of Education Statistics 2014, 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 2013, the overall percentage of 3- to 5-year-olds enrolled in preprimary programs was higher for those children whose parents had a graduate or professional degree (75 percent), as compared to those with a bachelor's degree (70 percent), an associate's degree (64 percent), some college or a vocational degree (62 percent), a high school credential (59 percent), or less than a high school credential (55 percent). The overall enrollment rate was also higher for those children whose parents had a bachelor's degree than those with all other levels of education, except a graduate or professional degree.

The overall preprimary enrollment differences reflected differences in the percentage of preschool enrollment. The percentage of 3- to 5-year-olds enrolled in preschool programs was higher for those children whose parents had either a graduate or professional degree (49 percent) or a bachelor's degree (45 percent). Preschool enrollment was lower in households where the parents' highest level of education was an associate's degree (36 percent), some college or a vocational degree (35 percent), a high school credential (31 percent), or less than a high school credential (27 percent). The percentage of 3- to 5-year-olds enrolled in kindergarten programs was not measurably different across all levels of parents' education.

The percentage of 3- to 5-year-olds enrolled in preprimary programs who attended full-day or part-day programs also varied by parents' highest level of education. In 2013, enrollment in full-day preprimary programs was higher for those children whose parents had a high school credential (67 percent) as compared to the full-day enrollment rates for children whose parents' highest level of education was a graduate or professional degree (59 percent), a bachelor's degree (57 percent), an associate's degree (58 percent), or less than a high school credential (59 percent). Conversely, the percentage of 3- to 5-year-olds enrolled in part-day preprimary programs was lower in households where the parents' highest level of education was a high school credential (33 percent) as compared to a graduate or professional degree (41 percent), a bachelor's degree (43 percent), an associate's degree (42 percent), or less than a high school credential (41 percent).


Figure 5. Percentage of 3- to 4-year-old children enrolled in preschool education, by country: 2012

Figure 5. Percentage of 3- to 4-year-old children enrolled in preschool education, by country: 2012

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- and 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 2014. See Digest of Education Statistics 2014, table 601.35.


In 2012, some 54 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds were enrolled in preschool programs in the United States, compared to the average of 76 percent enrollment for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries. Among the 34 OECD countries reporting data that year, the percentage of 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in preschool education ranged from 12 percent in Turkey to 99 percent in France.


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