*Names in bold indicate Presenter
We explore ECEC characteristics using the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort (ECLS-B), a nationally representative dataset of 14,000 children born in 2001. We look between sectors first, examining aspects of program and teacher quality in settings serving 2- and 4-year-old children. We also look within the formal sector, probing the extent to which childcare centers, Head Start, and pre-kindergarten vary on observable measures of quality. If formal settings are consistently of higher quality than informal settings, and if some formal settings are consistently of higher quality than others, then differences in child outcomes may be attributable to sector-related differences in measurable and addressable quality. We then look between sectors by child and family characteristics in order to document differences in quality across sectors for observably similar students. Here, we assess whether differences between sectors are accounted for simply by differences in children served.
This study expands a relatively limited literature on within- and between-sector differences in ECEC quality, and complements related evidence on between-sector differences in child outcomes. We find that ECEC sectors differ significantly with respect to teacher characteristics, classroom activities, and other structural measures of quality. Formal settings are of higher observed quality than informal settings, on average, across both infant/toddler and preschool programs. In addition, the formal settings used by four year olds are of substantially higher quality than those used by toddlers. Within the formal sector, Head Start and pre-kindergarten are of higher quality, on average, than childcare centers. Finally, child and family characteristics like race and urbanicity are related to sector choice, we find that accounting for differences in the characteristics of children does little to explain the cross sector variation. Finally, we explore the state and federal regulations that govern ECEC programs. We find that settings with lower observed quality have the least stringent quality-related regulations, suggesting that regulations and other ECEC policies play an important role in determining the quality of ECEC programs and, ultimately, child outcomes.