Children Ages 3-5 Enrolled in Preschool or Kindergarten (Regions of 10,000 Residents or More)

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Learn More About Early Care and Education

Measures of Early Care and Education on Kidsdata.org
On kidsdata.org, indicators of early childhood care and education include: Kidsdata.org also provides the following measures of licensed child care in California:*
*The California Child Care Resource and Referral Network tracks licensed facilities (child care centers and family child care homes) providing care for infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and/or school-age children during all or part of the day. Data are available only for licensed facilities. Many families use license-exempt care, such as child care provided by relatives or friends.
Early Care and Education
Family Income and Poverty
Unemployment
Why This Topic Is Important
Experiences during early childhood lay the foundation for future health and well being, and the quality of children's early care and education (ECE) can have significant, lasting effects (1, 2). High-quality ECE programs deliver consistent, developmentally sound, and emotionally supportive care and education (1, 3). This type of care before age 5 is associated with improved cognitive, social-emotional, behavioral, and physical health, as well as increased school readiness, academic achievement, and earnings in adulthood (1, 2). Positive outcomes are particularly pronounced for children from low-income families, children of color, and those at risk for academic problems (1, 3, 4). A critically important ECE need for many families is child care; reliable child care can help families move out of poverty and achieve financial stability by enabling parents to work or pursue education and job training (2, 3).

However, finding affordable, high-quality ECE is a major challenge for many families, especially in California, and access differs based on geography, race/ethnicity, and income (2, 3, 4). In 2018, California was ranked the least affordable state for center-based infant care in the nation (2). For example, costs for center-based infant care in California made up an estimated 18% of the median annual income for married couples and 56% for single parents in 2018 (2).
For more information, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2019). Vibrant and healthy kids: Aligning science, practice, and policy to advance health equity. National Academies Press. Retrieved from: https://www.nap.edu/catalog/25466/vibrant-and-healthy-kids-aligning-science-practice-and-policy-to

2.  Child Care Aware of America. (2019). The U.S. and the high price of child care: An examination of a broken system. Retrieved from: https://www.childcareaware.org/our-issues/research/the-us-and-the-high-price-of-child-care-2019

3.  California Assembly Blue Ribbon Commission on Early Childhood Education. (2019). California Assembly Blue Ribbon Commission on Early Childhood Education: Final report. Retrieved from: https://speaker.asmdc.org/sites/speaker.asmdc.org/files/pdf/BRC-Final-Report.pdf

4.  Friedman-Krauss, A., et al. (2016). How much can high-quality universal pre-K reduce achievement gaps? Center for American Progress & National Institute for Early Education Research. Retrieved from: https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/early-childhood/reports/2016/04/05/132750/how-much-can-high-quality-universal-pre-k-reduce-achievement-gaps
How Children Are Faring
In 2018, an estimated 61% of California children ages 3-5 were enrolled in preschool or kindergarten, similar to percentages from previous years. An estimated 55% of Hispanic/Latino 3- to 5-year-olds were enrolled in pre-primary programs, compared with more than two-thirds of their African American/black, Asian American, white, and multiracial peers. Across counties with data in 2014-2018, the percentage of children in this age group enrolled in preschool or kindergarten ranged from less than 50% (Kern, Tulare) to more than 75% (Marin, San Francisco).

California's 36,827 licensed child care centers and family child care homes provided 976,835 child care spaces in 2019. Overall, the number of licensed facilities and spaces have been on the decline since 2008. According to 2019 estimates, there was one licensed child care space available for every four California children ages 0-12 with working parents; in some counties, availability was as low as one in six.

The average annual cost of licensed infant care exceeded $17,000 in child care centers and approached $12,000 in family child care homes in 2018. Care for preschool-age children was less expensive, but still more than $12,000 in child care centers and nearly $11,000 in family child care homes.
Policy Implications
Early childhood is a critical period of biological, cognitive, and social-emotional development (1). The quality of children's environments and experiences during these years has lasting effects (1). High-quality early care and education (ECE), in particular, can have positive and long-term impacts on children ranging from improved cognitive, emotional, and behavioral functioning to better health, educational attainment, and earnings later in life (1, 2). Without access to high-quality early learning opportunities, children can fall behind their peers, creating an academic achievement gap that has been shown to widen with age (1, 3). Leaders increasingly see investments in ECE as a way to reduce educational and health inequities by income and race/ethnicity (1, 4, 5). And research shows these investments pay off; for example, it is estimated that every $1 invested in high-quality preschool yields a return of up to $17 in social benefits (4). ECE also plays a critical role in family financial stability, as many parents need child care in order to work or go to school (4).

However, a significant number of families have difficulty accessing quality ECE, especially in California, due to a lack of program availability and affordability (3, 4). California was ranked the least affordable state for center-based infant care in the nation in 2018, and just 14% of the state's eligible infants and toddlers have access to subsidized child care (2, 3). Although the state has made some progress, California's ECE system remains underfunded and will need additional efforts and investments in order to build a comprehensive, high-quality system that is accessible and affordable to all, while ensuring a skilled and adequately compensated workforce (3, 4).

Policy and program options that could improve ECE include:
  • Increasing state funding for ECE, tying funding to program quality and prioritizing care for infants, toddlers, and children with the greatest needs; in particular, substantially expanding child care subsidies and spaces for income-eligible infants and toddlers (3, 4)
  • Creating adequate capacity for high-quality, universal preschool for all children ages 3-4, ensuring access for the most vulnerable children; also, ensuring that these programs meet established quality benchmarks, such as student-teacher ratios and professional standards (3, 4)
  • Reducing system fragmentation by working toward a streamlined, inclusive state ECE governance body to provide overall leadership, improve program coordination and accountability, and integrate data and funding streams (4)
  • Continuing to strengthen California's ECE quality improvement and standards systems, and making sure that all publicly-funded programs participate in a continuous improvement process and have access to coaching or other program support (4)
  • Strengthening the state's ECE workforce infrastructure to elevate the profession, provide clear pathways for career advancement, improve reimbursement rates to increase wages, and ensure that all providers receive coordinated, standardized, high-quality professional training and support (3, 4)
  • Ensuring that all California children receive a developmental screening and have access to quality early intervention services or other support services as needed; also, improving alignment and transitions between systems for infants and toddlers, preschoolers, and K-12 students, especially for students with special needs (3, 4)
For more information, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section or visit the California Child Care Resource and Referral Network. Also see Policy Implications under Family Economics and Education topics on kidsdata.org.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2019). Vibrant and healthy kids: Aligning science, practice, and policy to advance health equity. National Academies Press. Retrieved from: https://www.nap.edu/catalog/25466/vibrant-and-healthy-kids-aligning-science-practice-and-policy-to

2.  Child Care Aware of America. (2019). The U.S. and the high price of child care: An examination of a broken system. Retrieved from: https://www.childcareaware.org/our-issues/research/the-us-and-the-high-price-of-child-care-2019

3.  Children Now. (2020). 2020 California children's report card: A survey of kids' well-being and a roadmap for the future. Retrieved from: https://www.childrennow.org/portfolio-posts/20-report-card

4.  California Assembly Blue Ribbon Commission on Early Childhood Education. (2019). California Assembly Blue Ribbon Commission on Early Childhood Education: Final report. Retrieved from: https://speaker.asmdc.org/sites/speaker.asmdc.org/files/pdf/BRC-Final-Report.pdf

5.  Friedman-Krauss, A., et al. (2016). How much can high-quality universal pre-K reduce achievement gaps? Center for American Progress & National Institute for Early Education Research. Retrieved from: https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/early-childhood/reports/2016/04/05/132750/how-much-can-high-quality-universal-pre-k-reduce-achievement-gaps
Websites with Related Information
Key Reports and Research
County/Regional Reports
More Data Sources For Early Care and Education