The effect of targeted public pre-K on the broader child care landscape in Illinois

Project: Research project

Project Details


Cognitively stimulating early care and education (ECE) environments are important for children’s development (Phillips & Lowenstein, 2011) yet costly for parents to access (Cascio, 2017). In response, policymakers at the federal, state and city levels have increasingly invested in public pre-Kindergarten programs as a means to address barriers to early learning opportunities and maximize young children’s potential (Friedman-Krauss et al., 2018). The number and scope of these investments has expanded rapidly, and evidence on their impacts is only beginning to unfold. For example, some new public pre-K programs have had wide-reaching effects on families’ use of private child care (Bassok, Fitzpatrick, & Loeb, 2014; Bassok, Miller, & Galdo, 2016) and enrollment in other public ECE options (Bassok, 2012). Importantly, shifts in demand for pre-K alternatives may influence their availability, cost, or quality, resulting in qualitatively better or worse ECE options for families not enrolled in public pre-K. A few studies investigate this potential, but focus primarily on universal pre-K programs in only a handful of states and cities (e.g., Georgia, Oklahoma, Florida, and New York City). More evidence is needed to understand whether the 60 pre-K programs that operate across 43 states and the District of Columbia (Friedman-Krauss et al., 2018) effectively accomplish their policy goal to make early learning opportunities more accessible to young children. The proposed dissertation research will expand the evidence base on the market-level consequences of a previously unstudied form of public pre-K– targeted programs geared to socioeconomically disadvantaged families. Specifically, our proposed study focuses on Illinois’ Preschool For All (PFA) program, introduced in 2007 for low-income and academically at-risk 3- and 4-year-olds across the State. The introduction of this new funding source represented a major investment in ECE in Illinois. Nearly 1,500 new PFA-funded sites were put in place in the program’s first year, an 11% increase over the number of center- and home-based child care settings in Illinois the year before (Illinois Early Childhood Asset Map, n.d.). Currently, Illinois’ PFA program ranks 22nd in the country in terms of the number of 4-year-olds in preschool, and 4th in the country for the number of 3-year-olds enrolled (Friedman-Krauss et al., 2018). Yet it remains an open question as to whether such a public pre-K program, available only to 3- and 4-year-olds from disadvantaged families, has spillover effects on the wider market for care. The proposed study uses rigorous, quasi-experimental methods to generate plausibly causal estimates of the effect of targeted public preschool programs in Illinois on the ECE market at large. Outcomes of interest in are the quantity, cost and quality of ECE options broadly, as well as these same outcomes more narrowly defined among ECE settings that serve younger children (infants and toddlers) who are not eligible to attend preschool. Findings from the study will inform the following research topic priorities described in the Child Care Research Scholars Funding Opportunity Announcement: issues related to increasing access to high quality care (topic 2), increasing access to, and quality of, care for infants and toddlers (topic 4), and factors promoting or hindering partnerships among child care providers and other early childhood systems (topic 11). The results of the research will be relevant to policy makers at all levels of government as they consider how and for whom to fund ECE s
Effective start/end date9/30/199/29/20


  • Administration for Children and Families (90YE0214-02-00)


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