Children in preschools receive higher-quality care than those in home-based care, study finds

June 01, 2016

By Leslie Booren

New research shows that children in "formal" daycare settings have more educated teachers and are better prepared academically.

Children receiving formal, classroom-based preschool receive significantly higher quality care and have better reading and math skills than their peers who receive informal childcare before kindergarten, according to a new study published this week in Child Development.

Currently most young children in the United States experience regular non-parental care — about 50 percent of infants and over 80 percent of four-year-olds. The settings for these experiences vary widely from “formal” classroom settings such as full-day pre-kindergarten, Head Start and private childcare centers to more “informal” settings such as licensed family day care homes, nannies or babysitters. Although more and more children are attending preschool centers, about half of 3- to 5-year-olds experience some informal care on a regular basis.

Relatively little is known about the quality of the informal sector and how it compares with that of preschool centers, which are more highly regulated.

According to researchers from Stanford University, the University of Virginia, Cornell University and the Urban Institute, who used nationally representative data to examine quality differences across formal and informal settings, there are substantial differences not only with respect to quality, but also with respect to children’s reading and math skills when they enter kindergarten.