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Mel Gravely

Webinar Recap: How Race, Ethnicity, and Location Influence Children’s Access to Early Childhood Education (Part 1)

A couple weeks ago, I listened to a powerful webinar called “Race and Place Matter: Head Start and CCDBG Access by Race, Ethnicity, and Location.” According to its description, this webinar “examines neighborhood- and state-level access to Head Start and Child Care by race, ethnicity, and nativity.”

This webinar focuses on three separate studies, one conducted by the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), one from, and another from the Latino Policy Forum. Although the studies were run independently, each contributes to further understanding how to improve access to early childcare and education for low-income minority children. This blog will be the first in a series of three blogs, in which we’ll focus on each of these three studies.

Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) Study – “Disparate Access: Head Start and CCDBG Access by Race, Ethnicity, and Location”

The 2016 study by CLASP concluded that low-income children’s access to early childhood development opportunities varies by race, ethnicity, and state. The study, titled Disparate Access: Head Start and CCDBG Access by Race, Ethnicity, and Location, analyzed 2011-2013 differential data by race and ethnicity from three important early childcare programs in the United States: Head Start Preschool, Early Head Start, and CCDBG (Child Care and Development Block Grant).

Conducted and written by CLASP Senior Policy Analyst Ms. Stephanie Schmit and CLASP Policy Analyst Ms. Christina Walker, the study sought to understand the impact that race and ethnicity have on children’s access to early childcare and education. Data analysis was performed for Black, Hispanic/Latino, Asian and American Indian groups; White Non-Hispanics were not included in the study because Head Start and Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) administrative data report race and ethnicity separately, and given the high percentage of White, Hispanic/Latino children, data would be skewed if calculations were based on race and ethnicity separately for this race category.

Among children age birth to 5, access patterns to early childhood programs vary by race, ethnicity, and location.

The study found that between 2011-2013, 24 percent of young children in the United States qualified as poor – that is, living at or below 100 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). Of the children who were eligible to receive Head Start Preschool services between 2011-2013, 54 percent were Black, 38 percent were Hispanic/Latino, and 36 percent were Asian, indicating that a disproportionate number of poor children in the United States were minority children.

Furthermore, despite the federal-to-local flow of Head Start funds, access to the programs varied by state. Let’s look at two states that approximated each other in enrollment but differed sharply in the groups they served. Between 2011-13, 25,489 children were enrolled in Georgia Head Start Preschool. Of those children, 43 percent were Black and 15 percent were Hispanic/Latino.

In the same timeframe, Mississippi Head Start Preschool served close to the same number of children as Georgia – 28,256 children. Of those children, 108 percent were Black and 59 percent were Hispanic/Latino, suggesting that when viewed through the lenses of race, ethnicity, and location, access to early education and childcare programs is pointedly unbalanced.*

The number of children who are eligible to enroll in Head Start Preschool, Early Head Start and CCDBG exceeds actual enrollment.

Although Head Start, Early Head Start, and CCDBG were created to close early child development gaps among low-income children, the CLASP study indicated that enrollment in the programs was lower than the number of eligible children. For example, between 2011-2013, Head Start Preschool served only 54 percent of eligible Black preschoolers, 38 percent of eligible Hispanic/Latino children, and 26 percent of eligible Asian preschoolers in the U.S.

Access to Early Head Start reflected further disparity: 6 percent of eligible Black infants/ toddlers, 5 percent of eligible Hispanic/Latino infants/ toddlers, and 4 percent of eligible Asian infants/ toddlers received support from the program. Note that although Hispanic/Latino children were indeed served through the Migrant and Seasonal Head Start program, that data was not included in the study.

CCDBG data suggests that more than 85 percent of eligible children – regardless of race – did not receive CCDBG services between 2011-2013. During those three years, the program served 21 percent of eligible Black children, 8 percent of eligible Hispanic/Latino children, and 11 percent of eligible Asian children. Given the positive impact that early childhood education programs have been found to have on children’s future development, the study authors believe these gaps must be narrowed.

State CCDBG policies impact access to services among eligible children.

CCDBG’s federal-to-state funding pattern gives each state total discretion over individual eligibility requirements into the program, making its data difficult to evaluate on a national level. Thus, while some states may posit high CCDBG enrollment rates, that may be indicative of less stringent eligibility requirements. Similarly, some states may have low enrollment rates due to higher eligibility standards, like requiring working parents to have stable working hours, rather than allowing for variable working hours.

Between 2011-2013, the share of Black children served by CCDBG ranged from 3 percent in Maine to 42 percent in Pennsylvania. For Hispanic/Latino children, the share ranged from 1 percent in Mississippi to 12 percent in New Jersey. For Asian children, the share ranged from less than 1 percent in Arizona, Montana, North and South Dakota to 73 percent in New York. While the study does not explore the differences in each state’s eligibility requirements, it does conclude that lack of equal standards across states impacts low-income children’s access to programs that benefit their overall development.

Part Two of our discussion will examine data from and address the relationship between race, immigration, and location of neighborhood Head Start centers, as well as their impact on access to services. Part Three of our Webinar will review relevant study data from Latino Policy Forum and Q&A from the webinar.

* “Note that because our pool of potentially eligible children is based solely on income, and does not include children who may be categorically eligible or account for the share of children above the poverty level that grantees may serve, some percentages in this analysis are greater than 100. This high percentage indicates extensive reach among the eligible population but should not be construed as an exact figure and does not necessarily indicate universal coverage among the eligible population.”

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