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Early Learning in the United States: 2018

Preschoolers engage in a toy sharing learning exercise at an early childhood education program in Los Angeles, March 2013.

    These fact sheets are part of an annual series examining early learning programs across the United States. Click to view the 2016, 2017, and 2019 versions.

    High-quality early learning programs are proven to provide short- and long-term benefits for children, giving them the basis for future success. Beyond benefits to child development and learning, child care is an economic necessity for the families of the nearly two-thirds of America’s children who have all available parents in the workforce. However, the high cost of child care puts it out of reach for too many families.

    Most states’ policies fall short of providing the investment necessary to make affordable, high-quality early learning programs a reality for working families. On average, states provide child care subsidies to less than 1 in 7 children in low-income families, and these subsidies only cover a fraction of the cost of providing high-quality child care. This causes workers to struggle as well; the average child care employee in every state makes less than $13 per hour.

    Policies such as universal voluntary preschool, an expansion of child care subsidies to all low- and middle-income families, and a cap on the amount families pay for child care would provide enormous benefits to families and state economies.

    The Center for American Progress has produced state fact sheets in order to provide an in-depth look at both the current state of early learning programs and the need for improvement in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The fact sheets include information regarding:

    • The cost of child care and economic status of working parents
    • How each state is failing to provide affordable child care for families and adequate supports for the child care workforce
    • How enacting policies to expand access to affordable child care and preschool would benefit families and state economies

    State policymakers and advocates can use these fact sheets to identify their state’s opportunities for improvement and to highlight the importance of enacting policies that support young children’s learning, families’ economic security, and state economies.

    Simon Workman is the associate director of Early Childhood Policy at the Center for American Progress. Steven Jessen-Howard is a research assistant for Early Childhood Policy at the Center.