Children of immigrants will make up a critical share of our nation’s future workforce, but they are less likely than other children to participate in early education programs known to support school readiness and long-term productivity. This study describes the characteristics and enrollment of children of immigrants using the most current and comprehensive dataset available: the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010–11. We find that children of immigrants tend to have fewer resources and greater need than children of US-born parents but lower rates of enrollment in center-based preschool. However, programs such as Head Start and state prekindergarten, as well as public kindergarten programs, are making progress in closing gaps in access. These findings suggest that current investments in early education are helping prepare the future workforce for success in 2050 and that expanded investments are warranted.
Erica Greenberg is a Senior Research Associate in the Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population and in the Education Policy Program at the Urban Institute. Her research spans early childhood programs and policies, including state prekindergarten, Head Start, subsidized child care, and home visiting. She also examines inequality in K–12 education and the ways early intervention can address it. Before joining Urban, Greenberg was an intern in the U.S. Department of Education Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development and a prekindergarten teacher in Washington, DC. Greenberg holds a BA from Yale University. She received her MA in political science and her PhD in education policy from Stanford University.
Victoria Rosenboom is a research analyst in the Center on Education Data and Policy at the Urban Institute. She supports research on K–12 and postsecondary education. Rosenboom has worked on projects about school choice, online education, and postsecondary living costs. Before joining Urban, Rosenboom was a research assistant at the Center for Research on Children in the United States at Georgetown University and a summer associate at the Congressional Budget Office. She holds a BS in political science and mathematics from Nebraska Wesleyan University and an MPP from Georgetown University, where she wrote her thesis on the relationship between problems in student-teacher interaction and chronic absenteeism.
Gina Adams, a senior fellow in the Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population at the Urban Institute, is a national expert on factors that shape the affordability, quality, and supply of child care/early education services, and the ability of low-income families to benefit from them. Since the mid-1980s, she has worked on a range of child care and early education programs, including child care subsidies, Head Start/Early Head Start, state prekindergarten, two-generation models, and quality initiatives. She led seminal research on how families, providers, and agency staff experience the subsidy system that supported state and federal efforts to create subsidy systems that are family-friendly and fair to providers.
Adams codirects Urban’s Kids in Context initiative. Her current research interests include working across program silos to address challenges that instability and insecurity create for children’s healthy development, helping states simplify their child care systems to align them with SNAP or Medicaid, examining the intersection between child care and workforce development strategies, exploring factors that affect whether children of immigrants participate in state prekindergarten programs, examining absenteeism in early childhood programs, and assessing two-generational models. She has led major multistate or multisite qualitative studies and mixed-method studies. She also has extensive experience in public speaking, technical assistance, and publishing for a wide-ranging audience. Before joining Urban in 1999, Adams directed child care research at the Children’s Defense Fund and worked as a child care teacher for infants and as a home visitor for low-income Latino families.
*This working paper was made possible by the US 2050 project, supported by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation and the Ford Foundation. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the authors.