Panel Paper: Predictors of Preschool Attendance Among Immigrant Families

Saturday, November 10, 2012 : 2:05 PM
Schaefer (Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Portia Miller, University of Pittsburgh and Rebekah Levine Coley, Boston College

Children of immigrant parents are the most rapidly growing segment of the U.S. population.  Today, nearly one in four American children has an immigrant parent.  Children of immigrants deserve particular attention in research because they tend to start school with fewer of the early cognitive skills that provide a foundation for future academic success. Accessible, high-quality preschool programs, which have been linked to increases in children of immigrants’ reading, math and English language proficiency, are an important policy tool for decreasing school readiness gaps faced this population.  Thus, it is vital to understand patterns of selection into early education programs among immigrant families.  This study examines patterns of early education selection among a nationally representative sample of preschool-aged children of immigrants in the U.S.  It aims to delineate factors that relate to the type of non-parental care accessed by immigrant families. The results provide important new information regarding selection into early education programs among children of immigrants across the country. 

Data were drawn from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort (ECLS-B), a nationally representative, longitudinal study following a cohort of approximately 10,700 children born in the U.S. in 2001 from birth through kindergarten entry.  The analytic sample contains the approximately 2,500 children of immigrants who remained in the sample through preschool.  Information was collected regarding parental region of origin, citizenship status, age of immigration, English proficiency, and children’s preschool arrangements, as well as several other parent, child, and contextual characteristics.  Census data were also obtained to construct measures of the availability of formal, informal, and non-English care in children’s neighborhoods.  Hierarchical multinomial logistic regression analyses were performed to examine relations between children’s care type (parent, home care, center care, or Head Start) at age 4, and parental region of origin, characteristics unique to immigrant families (e.g. parental age of immigration, household English proficiency), parental characteristics, child characteristics, maternal preferences, and contextual factors.

Results suggest systematic differences in the rates at which immigrant families’ access preschool programs for their children among a diverse population of children of immigrants. There were significant differences in child care type related to parental region of origin.  For example, children of Mexican immigrants tended to use parent care more than any other immigrant group.  When in care, Mexican immigrants used home care or Head Start more than center care.  Asian immigrant families used Head Start at much lower rates than all other immigrant groups.  Differences were reduced when characteristics of families and contexts were taken into account.  Findings highlight the importance of considering factors that are especially salient for immigrant families, including household English proficiency, parental citizenship status, parental preference for culturally-matched care, and availability of non-English speaking care providers. Results can help to inform efforts to increase access to and use of early education programs by specific subpopulations in the U.S.