Center-based Early Care and Education Providers in 2012 and 2019: Counts and Characteristics

Publication Date: December 7, 2021
Center-based ECE Providers in 2012 and 2019_thumbnail

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  • Published: 2021

Introduction

Research Questions

  1. What are the characteristics of center-based providers who served children from birth to age 5?
  2. How many center-based providers served children from birth to age 5?
  3. How many children did these centers serve? How many staff served children from birth to age 5?

Child care and early education play a critical role in providing care for young children in the United States. They also enable many parents to participate in the labor force. In this chartbook we describe center-based child care and early education programs by key characteristics such as enrollment size, ages of children served, revenue sources, auspice and sponsorship, and hours of operation. We also provide total numbers of children enrolled for selected program attributes.

This chartbook presents nationally representative estimates of centers in 2012 and 2019.  Differences in the estimates from the two years can reflect changes within individual centers that were open in both 2012 and 2019, as well as differences between centers that were open in either 2012 or 2019, when data were collected.  Very few centers participated in both years of NSECE data collection. Therefore, we are not able to say how much between-center or within-center change may have occurred from 2012 to 2019. 

Purpose

This chartbook presents nationally representative estimates of center-based providers serving children age 5 and under, not yet in kindergarten, using data from the 2012 and 2019 National Survey of Early Care and Education (NSECE).

Key Findings and Highlights

In 2019, 121,000 center-based providers (’centers’) of child care and early education served at least one child age five and under, not yet in kindergarten. These providers employed 1.82 million staff members who worked directly with 9.49 million children under age 13.

Centers were classified as serving or not serving children in three age groups: children under age 3, children ages 3 through 5 years, not yet in kindergarten, and school-age children. Just under a third of centers(31%) served at least one child in all three of these age groups. Almost one quarter (23%) of centers served only children ages 3 through 5 years, not yet in kindergarten.

Centers serving only one age group were less common in 2019 than in 2012. In 2019, 21,600 centers served 25 children or fewer compared to 28,100 centers having that enrollment size in 2012. Only 23% of centers in 2019 served only children ages 3 through 5 years, not yet in kindergarten, compared to 30% of centers in 2012.

Methods

This chartbook draws from data collected in the 2012 and 2019 NSECE Center-based Provider Surveys. In the NSECE, a center-based provider delivers child care or early education services to children age five and under, not yet in kindergarten, at a single location. Center-based providers were identified from a national provider sampling frame built from state or national administrative lists such as state licensing lists, Head Start program records, or lists of public pre-K programs obtained from each state. These providers included regulated, licensed, and other private providers as well. Respondents to these nationally representative surveys were directors or other instructional leaders of center-based child care or early education services provided to children age five and under, not yet in kindergarten. For this chartbook, 2012 data are from approximately 7,770 centers. Tabulations of the 2019 data are for approximately 6,900 centers.

Citation

Suggested citation: A R Datta, Z Gebhardt, C Zapata-Gietl, (2021). Center-based Early Care and Education Providers in 2012 and 2019: Counts and Characteristics. OPRE Report No. 2021-222, Washington DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Glossary

Center–based Providers :
A center-based provider is an organization providing child care or early education (CCEE) services to at least one child age five and under, not yet in kindergarten, at a single location. Center-based providers offer care at least three hours per day at least twice per week, where parents are not present and that are not only drop-in care, after-school or single activity arrangements. A single provider may offer multiple types of CCEE services (for example, an after-school program and a pre-school). A center-based program may be independent or part of a larger entity, such as a school district, a community service organization, or a chain. The NSECE data cover all of a center’s CCEE services to children under age 13 at the sampled location. CCEE services to school-age children are defined as those other than regular elementary school kindergarten through eighth grade. Common school-age care in centers would be before or after-school care.
Ages of Children Served :
The estimates in this chartbook cover all children under age 13 enrolled in center-based providers who care for at least one child age 5 and under, not yet in kindergarten. We categorize children into three age groups: 1) under age 3, 2) ages 3 through 5, not yet in kindergarten, and 3) school-age children attending grades kindergarten through eighth grade and under age 13. Note: School-age children may also be receiving care services from center-based providers who serve only school-age children; those providers and their enrolled children are not represented in the NSECE center-based provider data.