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5th District Footprint provides a spatial analysis of data relevant to community development in the Fifth District. The publication is available online quarterly.

5th District Footprint

September 2019

5th District Footprint logo

This issue of 5th District Footprint asks: How does preschool enrollment compare for children above and below the federal poverty level in Fifth District counties?

Preschool Enrollment by Income in the Fifth District

Educational interventions well before adulthood — even as early as preschool — are an important component of comprehensive workforce development.1 Preschool education lays a foundation for lifelong learning and skill development, and early exposure to education has been linked to higher educational and workforce outcomes later in life, including higher test scores, higher educational attainment and higher adult earnings.2 But nationwide, only about a quarter of children under 5 years old (24.9 percent) are enrolled in preschool, and this statistic drops to one in five (19.9 percent) for children below the federal poverty level (FPL).3 As a result, 4.3 million 3- and 4-year-olds in the U.S. may be missing out on the long-term benefits of preschool — and over 400,000 of them reside in the Fifth Federal Reserve District.4 With these numbers in mind, this issue of 5th District Footprint asks: How does preschool enrollment compare for children above and below the FPL in Fifth District counties?

For the purposes of this publication, preschool enrollment rates are calculated by dividing the number of preschool enrollees by the number of children under 5 years old. Since preschool enrollment typically starts at age 3 or 4, this may underrepresent enrollment rates.5 However, it is necessary to use this methodology because the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey does not provide income estimates for the population ages 3 and 4 — only for the total population under 5 years old.

Along with private preschool options, federal, state and local governments administer a number of preschool and early learning programs to help individuals capitalize on the benefits of early childhood education. These programs seek to address factors that may influence parental decisions about preschool and early learning, including physical and cognitive development, cost, location and program options.

The most ubiquitous of these public programs is Head Start, which provides federal grant funding, technical assistance and oversight to local agencies that administer early learning programs for low-income children ages 3 through 5.6 There are more than 1,600 local Head Start programs nationwide, although access is limited by a combination of insufficient funding, challenges in the enrollment process and a lack of parental awareness about the programs. Across the country, just 31 percent of Head Start eligible 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in 2017.7

Two other major sources of funding for early childhood education serving low-income children are the Child Care and Development Block Grant program (CCDBG) and the Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five program (PDG B-5). CCDBG is a federal block grant program that was funded at $5.28 billion in fiscal year 2019, and PDG B-5 is a $250 million competitive federal program that awarded grants to 46 states and territories in the 2019 funding cycle.8 In the Fifth District, the District of Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia received PDG B-5 grants ranging from $3.4 million (South Carolina) to $10.6 million (District of Columbia and Maryland).9 West Virginia was the only Fifth District state not to receive PDG B-5 grant funding.

At 24.2 percent, preschool enrollment in the Fifth District as a whole is on par with the national enrollment rate. State enrollment rates in the Fifth District range from 21.6 percent in West Virginia to 33.7 percent in the District of Columbia, even though West Virginia and the District of Columbia both have universal preschool programs.10 Enrollment in the Fifth District is lowest for children in South Carolina living below the FPL at 16.8 percent. Meanwhile, children in the District of Columbia living above the FPL have the highest enrollment rate at 34.3 percent.

All Fifth District states and the District of Columbia have higher enrollment rates for children above the FPL than below. However, as illustrated in the map below, that is not necessarily the case within individual counties. Of the 318 Fifth District counties for which data are represented, 94 (29.6 percent) have a higher preschool enrollment rate for children below the FPL than above.11 The remaining 224 counties (70.4 percent) have higher enrollment rates for children above the FPL.

Preschool enrollment rate is higher for children below the FPL than above.
Preschool enrollment rate is higher for children above the FPL than below.

Note: For the purpose of this map, preschool enrollment rates are calculated by dividing the number of preschool enrollees by the number of children under 5 years old; since preschool enrollment typically starts at age 3 or 4, this may underrepresent enrollment rates. The difference in preschool enrollment was calculated by subtracting the enrollment rate of children below the FPL from the enrollment rate of children above the FPL. County-level data are excluded if fewer than 100 children under 5 years old living below the FPL are represented in the data.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates 2013-2017, Tables B14006 and B17001.

Interactive Map: User Tips

  • Refresh your page if you see any irregularities with the map’s size, legend or shading.
  • When you select “Download map” from the map’s dropdown menu, a PDF version of the full map will open in a new tab.
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  • In some instances, zooming in on a county will reveal gaps in county boundaries. These gaps are the result of spatial conversion and do not indicate missing county data.

If you have feedback about your experience with this interactive map, please send comments to Emily Corcoran.

Although data for Falls Church, Virginia, are excluded from the map because of the city’s relatively small population of low-income children under 5 years old, it is the Fifth District locality with the highest overall preschool enrollment rate at 57.6 percent.12 Rural Bamberg County, South Carolina, has the greatest enrollment disparity between children above and below the FPL. While 38.5 percent of children above the FPL are enrolled in preschool, just 2.4 percent of children below the FPL are enrolled.

The National Institute for Early Education Research estimates that at current rates of increase in preschool enrollment, it could take nearly a century for half of eligible 3-year-olds in the U.S. to be enrolled in public preschool.13 Furthermore, research indicates that preschool teachers are compensated less than primary school teachers, which may negatively impact classroom quality, and state spending per child is generally trending downward.14 Given the current state of preschool enrollment and funding, work remains to be done to ensure that children of all income levels in the Fifth District and the nation have access to early childhood education.

 
1

Kartik B. Athreya, Urvi Neelakantan and Jessie Romero, “Expanding the Scope of Workforce Development,” Economic Brief No. 14-05, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, May 2014; Kartik Athreya and Jessie Romero, “Land of Opportunity: Economic Mobility in the United States,” 2012 Annual Report, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. For additional information, see “Moving the Needle in Rural Communities,” a March 2019 speech at the Virginia Governor’s Conference on Agricultural Trade by Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond President Tom Barkin.

2

Visit heckmanequation.org for an overview of research on early childhood education. See also the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis’ work on early childhood development.

3

The Federal Poverty Level (FPL) is $25,750 for a family of four in 2019. “Poverty Guidelines,” U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation.

4

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the number of 3- and 4-year-olds not enrolled in preschool is 4,298,186 in the United States and 423,950 in the Fifth District. U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey (ACS) 5-Year Estimates 2013-2017, Table S1401.

5

Preschool enrollment estimates for 3- and 4-year-olds can be found in ACS Table S1401. As an example of the methodological impact, the District of Columbia enrollment rate is 79.5 percent for 3- and 4-year-olds and 33.7 percent for the population under 5 years old.

6

Children are eligible to participate in Head Start if their family income is below the FPL, they receive benefits through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or Supplemental Security Income or they are homeless or in foster care. “Office of Head Start,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children & Families; Meg Hassan, “Head Start and Early Head Start Program Overview,” First Five Years Fund, July 2, 2019.

7

Ibid.

8

Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG),” First Five Years Fund; Lauren Mendoza, “46 States and Territories to Receive Preschool Development Grants,” First Five Years Fund, Jan. 4, 2019.

9

Ibid.

10

WV Universal Pre-K,” West Virginia Department of Education; “Early Learning,” District of Columbia Public Schools. For additional information on the District of Columbia’s preschool program, as well as programs in Baltimore, Maryland, Charlotte, North Carolina, and Virginia Beach, Virginia, see “Pre-K in American Cities” from CityHealth and the National Institute for Early Education Research.

11

Although the Fifth District does not include Brooke, Hancock, Marshall, Ohio, Tyler and Wetzel counties, West Virginia, this refers to the Fifth District plus those counties for consistency with the mapped area. County-level data are excluded from the map if fewer than 100 children under 5 years old living below the FPL are represented in the data.

12

In Falls Church, Virginia, the estimated number of children under 5 years old who are below the FPL is 32 and the number above the FPL is 846.

13

The State of Preschool 2018,” National Institute for Early Education Research, 2018.

14

Ibid.

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