Competition or Cooperation? The Effect of School-Based Prekindergarten Roll-Out during COVID-19 on CCDF-Funded and Head Start Programs in Chicago

Project: Research project

Project Details


The child care and early education (CCEE) market in the U.S. is at a major crossroads given the joint increased spending and effect of COVID-19 pandemic. The upturn in federal and local investment over the past decade has led to an increased expansion in publicly funded preschool and further expansion is expected. Yet, numerous questions remain regarding how early childhood programs respond to one another within a given CCEE market, especially when the COVID-19 pandemic has strongly disrupted the already fragile child care market. In particular, there is little research on what happens to CCDF-funded and Head Start programs in terms of availability and quality when school-based prekindergarten enters the market. In the proposed study, we take advantage of Chicago’s universal prekindergarten (UPK) rollout during the COVID-19 pandemic, which combines school-based prekindergarten programs that offer free, full-day preschool for all 4-year-olds, and CCDF-funded and Head Start programs that that serve eligible low-income children in community-based organizations. We seek to examine (a) how the roll-out of school-based preK programs has changed the enrollment and availability of CCDF-funded and Head Start programs, (b) how changes in the overall CCEE landscape affect the average quality in communities, as well as the quality of CCDF-funded and Head Start programs, and (c) whether these changes differentially affect low-income communities. To address our research aims, we will adopt a quasi-experimental approach (i.e., difference-in-differences), using large-scale administrative data from Chicago Public Schools, City of Chicago Department of Family Support Services, and American Community Survey from 2017 to 2023. Lessons learned from the study will inform the City of Chicago’s UPK programming and provide insights to other cities and states that are interested in improving access and quality for their youngest learners.
Effective start/end date9/30/223/29/24


  • Administration for Children and Families (90YE0273-01-00)


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