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Are Neighborhood Factors Associated with the Quality of Early Childhood Education in North Carolina?

Region:
Southeast
Description:

The purpose of this study was to examine whether and how geographic, demographic, and socioeconomic characteristics of the neighborhood (that is, census tract) in which an early childhood education (ECE) site is located within North Carolina is associated with aspects of the quality of these sites, as characterized by their 2017 Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) measures. The study used data on 5,254 licensed early childhood sites from numerous publicly-available data sources, including the North Carolina Division of Child Development and Early Education, the American Community Survey, and the National Center for Education Statistics. The strength of association between neighborhood characteristics and quality rating scores among ECE sites was determined using multilevel structural equation modeling to account for the way in which ECE sites are nested within neighborhoods. After taking into consideration characteristics of the ECE sites themselves, the nature of the neighborhood did not help further explain why some sites earned higher quality rating scores than other sites. Findings suggest that geographic location and the socio-demographic characteristics of a neighborhood need not be seen as impediments to providing or ensuring access to higher quality ECE, as represented by higher scores on the states’ QRIS measures. Neighborhood-related predictors, such as socioeconomic characteristics, were only weakly associated with the quality rating scores. Moreover, the analyses also indicated that high-quality sites are available in most neighborhoods in the state. Some site-level variables, such as accepting child care subsidies and the age groups served by the site, were associated with quality rating scores among ECE sites. Sites that served fewer different age groups had higher quality rating scores, on average. More research is needed to understand what characteristics of sites, and their contexts, may best predict whether an ECE site will be of higher or lower quality.

Publication Type:
Descriptive Study
Online Availability:
Publication Date:
October 2020
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