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Where We Rank in Early-Childhood Education

July 25, 2017

At least we’re doing better than Russia. On the other hand, Denmark, Belgium, Israel and a gaggle of other nations are all beating the U.S. in terms of childcare program enrollment.

CCIG’s Joaquin Escobar.

That’s according to a report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which also found that the U.S. spends just 0.4 percent of its gross domestic product on early-childhood and education – considerably under the 0.8 percent average of the 30 countries studied.

As dramatic as that might sound, consider that Norway and Sweden spent nearly 2 percent of their GDP on early-childhood.

The OECD report is exhaustive. It includes analysis of issues such as access and governance, equity, financing, curriculum, the teaching workforce and parent engagement.

Its enrollment findings are sure to raise eyebrows.

While U.S. enrollment rates for children under age 3 hover just below 30 percent – the middle of the pack compared to other countries – we fall significantly behind when it comes to enrollment rates of 3- and 4-year-olds, the organization said.

Researchers found that just 40 percent of 3-year-olds in the U.S. and about 70 percent of 4-year-olds are enrolled in preschool programs – rates that pale in comparison with other developed countries. The average enrollment rate for 3-year-olds was 70 percent in two-thirds of the countries included in the report, while the enrollment for 4-year-olds surpassed 90 percent.

The overall enrollment of all 3- to 5-year-olds in the U.S. is 67 percent, the lowest early childhood education ranking out of all OECD countries except Switzerland and Turkey.

The consequence of lower enrollment suggests an outcome that no nation would welcome:

On average, 15-year-olds who had access to early-childhood education for at least two years outperformed children who did not, the OECD report said. Disadvantaged children benefit the most and targeting them would generate the highest returns, the report said.

In releasing its report, the organization urged the U.S. and other countries to step up their efforts to provide affordable and high-quality early childhood education and care “to improve social mobility and give all children the chance to fulfill their potential.”

Indeed, the U.S. as a whole has a long way to go when it comes to supporting early childhood programs. Seven states, according to U.S. News and World Report, still offer no state-funded pre-kindergarten program and 15 states have made negligible progress on enrollment, serving fewer than 5 percent of 4-year-olds in the 2015-16 school year.

Earlier this year, the Brookings Institution, a centrist Washington, D.C., think tank, called on the federal government to subsidize childcare centers.

“There is broad public support for more government spending on childcare as long as that spending does not result in another unfunded entitlement that worsens the deficit,” the think tank said.

Its proposal for increased childhood subsidies would cost $42 billion and would provide a substantial subsidy for every child from birth to its fifth birthday in a family at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. That is nearly half the families in the U.S., the institute said.

It’s an interesting proposal that promises to boost our early childhood education ranking. I’ll be writing more about it in my next post.

Joaquin Escobar, an Insurance Advisor at CCIG, handles the risk management and insurance needs of commercial childcare and school accounts. Reach him at 720-212-2054 or

CCIG is a Denver-area insurance brokerage with the full-service capabilities of a national brokerage. We do more than make sure you have the right policy. We also help you manage your long-term cost of risk with our risk and claims management expertise and a commitment to service excellence.

Also read: 7 Ways Schools Can Improve Playground Safety

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