Early Childhood Programs:

Parent Education and Income Best Predict Participation

HEHS-95-47: Published: Dec 28, 1994. Publicly Released: Jan 27, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed early childhood programs, focusing on the individual, family, and geographic characteristics that influence children's preschool program participation.

GAO found that: (1) parent education and income are the largest determinants of children's preschool program participation; (2) children living in low-income families are less likely to participate in preschool programs than children from middle-income families; (3) children in some risk groups are as likely to participate in preschool programs as those children not at risk when publicly funded preschool is available; (4) African American and Native American children are more likely to attend preschool than Caucasian children; (5) rural children are among the least likely to attend preschool; (6) children with single parents are more likely to attend preschool than children from married-couple families; (7) immigrant and linguistically isolated children and children whose parents are unemployed are as likely to attend preschool as their counterparts when the effects of low income and education are accounted for; and (8) although demographics account for less than one half of the variability in children's preschool participation rates, children in some states are less likely to attend preschools than those in other states.

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