Working Paper: Sector Quality Differences in Early Education

Full Title: Within- and Between-Sector Quality Differences in Early Childhood Education and Care

Full Abstract: This study leverages nationally representative data to examine the magnitude of quality differences between (1) formal and informal early childhood education and care providers; (2) Head Start, pre-kindergarten, and other center-based care; and (3) programs serving toddlers and those serving four-year-olds. It then documents differences in children’s reading and math skills at age five between those who had enrolled in formal and informal early childhood settings at age four. Cross-sector differences in reading and math outcomes are substantially reduced when accounting for a rich set of quality measures, though these quality measures do little to explain more modest differences in child outcomes within the formal sector. Results inform current policy efforts aimed at mandating or incentivizing quality improvements in early childhood education and care by highlighting the large quality differences across sectors and their relationship with child development.

EdPolicyWorks Working Paper Series No. 18. Updated July 2015.