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Access to early care and education in rural communities: Implications for children's school readiness


This study links county-level early care and education (ECE) program, economic, and demographic data to child-level data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort of 2010–2011 to examine geographic variation in ECE program participation and provision. We find that public ECE programs, particularly Head Start, occupy a larger role in nonmetropolitan communities than in metropolitan areas. By contrast, children in rural counties are less likely to attend private center-based ECE, and nonprofit childcare program expenditures in rural areas lag. We also find rural-metropolitan differences in school readiness diminish when geographic characteristics are controlled. Results suggest that county-level context and state-level policy features shape children’s early experiences, and that public ECE investments are key in narrowing disparities in ECE attendance and in children’s outcomes. (author abstract)

Resource Type:
Reports & Papers
United States

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