All children can benefit from high-quality early care and education because early childhood experiences (defined as the first five years of a child's life) can have lasting effects on child health and wellbeing.1 Head Start, the largest public early childhood care and education program in the U.S., offers high-quality preschool services for low-income children (defined as 3- and 4-year-olds with family income below 100% of the federal poverty level). However, nationally, only half of the children who are eligible for Head Start are served by the program,2 and some groups of children are less likely than others to be served by Head Start. For example, only 38% of Hispanic eligible children attend Head Start compared with more than half (53%) of black eligible children.
Research shows that having a Head Start center in a child's immediate neighborhood increases participation among Hispanic and immigrant children.3 Yet, new diversitydatakids.org research shows that, nationally, Hispanic and immigrant children have the worst neighborhood availability of Head Start followed by black children. Overall, white children who are eligible for Head Start have notably better neighborhood availability of Head Start than children of other racial/ethnic groups. These findings are concerning given that nationally Hispanic children now represent the largest share of children eligible for Head Start (36% in 2013-2017), and that together Hispanic and black children - the two groups with the worst neighborhood availability - represent over 60% of eligible children.