RELEASE: The United States is Trailing Other Countries on Early Education Investment and Enrollment

View the issue brief, infographic, and interactive map

Washington, D.C. – Compared to other developed nations, the United States lags far behind on preschool access, quality, and investment, according to a new analysis released today by the Center for American Progress. The United States enrolls only 69 percent of 4-year-old children in early education, trailing more than two-dozen countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. America also lags behind in 3-year-old preschool participation, the typical age children begin early childhood programs, our teacher-to-child ratios, and our investment in early childhood.

Studies show that high-quality early childhood education can significantly improve a child’s preliteracy, prewriting, and premath skills. These vital skills have been linked to third-grade reading achievement—a predictor of high school graduation—and to success in math in secondary school later in life. School readiness and the skills gained from high-quality early education are both essential to educating a strong workforce that is able to successfully compete in the global economy. While other nations are making serious and significant commitments to expanding access to early childhood education and educating a globally competitive workforce, the United States has yet to follow suit.

Both the Center for American Progress and President Barack Obama have proposed significantly expanding access to high-quality preschool. Included in his FY 2014 budget proposal, President Obama’s proposal for a bold new $75 billion investment in preschool over 10 years would significantly shrink the preschool-access gap by helping states establish and expand high-quality programs. The president’s budget outline also included important investments to support the nation’s youngest children and working parents, including $1.4 billion in FY 2014 to expand high-quality child care for infants and toddlers and $15 billion over 10 years to expand states’ home-visiting programs for at-risk families.

Issue brief: The United States is Far Behind Other Countries on Pre-K by Juliana Herman, Sasha Post, and Scott O’Halloran
Infographic: We’re Getting Beat on Preschool by Juliana Herman, Sasha Post, and Scott O’Halloran
Interactive map: The United States is Getting Beat on Preschool by Juliana Herman, Sasha Post, and Scott O’Halloran

To speak with a CAP expert on this topic,
contact Katie Peters at or 202.731.5951.