Preparing the Future Workforce: Early Care and Education Participation Among Children of Immigrants

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Author(s): The Urban Institute

Published: Mar. 22, 2019

Report Intro/Brief:
“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 (ECLS-K:2011).

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…

Today, one in four young children in the US is the child of an immigrant parent. Children of immigrants will make up a critical share of the 2050 workforce, yet they have been less likely than other children to enroll in early education programs that can support their long-term development and productivity. Research shows that persistent barriers to access, rather than preferences for familial care, explain these gaps . And these gaps are costly: children of immigrants experience substantial gains in early reading, writing, and math after attending high-quality early education. Without opportunities for early learning, many young children of immigrants start school at a disadvantage.

This descriptive study examines the demographics of young children of immigrants, their patterns of participation in early education programs, implications for future economic growth and the fiscal sustainability of the US, and policies that can help produce a stronger workforce at midcentury. We employ quantitative description and statistical analyses using the ECLS-K:2011. The ECLS-K:2011 is a nationally representative study of more than 18,000 children entering kindergarten in fall 2010. These children will be in their forties in 2050. We use the ECLS-K:2011 to examine characteristics of young children of immigrants and their enrollment in early care and education (ECE) programs, including preschool and related arrangements…

In all, this paper provides rich demographic and socioeconomic information on today’s children of immigrants and describes the use of programs and policies in place to help them achieve. These investments focus on participating children and their families, but their benefits extend more broadly. In the coming decades, all net growth in the American economy is slated to come from immigrants and their children (National Academics of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2017). Preparing this segment of our future workforce to thrive is likely to produce far-reaching ripple effects for the US at midcentury.”

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