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The economic impact of early care and education in North Carolina

The availability of child care is of vital importance to the US economy. Over the last two decades, however, child care has come to be recognized as more than just a support for working parents and the care and education of young children has come to mean more than just child care. We now know that high quality early care and education (ECE) helps prepare children, particularly those most at risk for poor educational outcomes, for success in school, careers, and the community. Because it contributes to the preparedness and productivity of tomorrow's workforce, ECE is crucial to our country's long-term economic health and prosperity. Society's perception of early care and education has also broadened. It is now understood that the most effective ECE is a continuum of services and supports, adapted to the specific needs of families and communities, that includes pre- and post-natal home visiting, screenings to identify health and developmental challenges in their earliest stages, interventions to address problems as they emerge, high quality child care for infants and toddlers and pre-K for three- and four-year-olds. Many analyses have demonstrated the economic importance of child care and/or pre-K. The research presented here improves upon previous efforts by assessing the economic importance of North Carolina's birth-to-five early learning continuum: home visiting, early intervention, quality child care, and pre-K. In this paper, unless otherwise noted, the term Early Childhood Education (ECE) refers to the continuum and/or any of the individual services that comprise the continuum. (author abstract)
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