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Neighborhood Influences on the Quality of Child Care Centers in North Carolina


Description: North Carolina has been at the vanguard of supporting high quality early childhood education (ECE) by working consistently on improving the quality of its means-tested prekindergarten programs; this is demonstrated in part by its use of a Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) since 1999. Although these efforts have yielded substantial progress, there are still ECE providers of low to moderate quality within the system and some neighborhoods may lack access to quality child care centers. Furthermore, there is more limited understanding of the systemic, rather than site-specific forces that contribute to the quality of an ECE provider. This study seeks to build an understanding of the extent to which high quality ECE is dependent on geographically-linked factors. Specifically, in addition to more commonly included provider-specific factors (for example, funding source), this study will investigate the influence of such factors as greater competition for families in urban communities and the limited provider access to well-educated and trained ECE teachers in rural communities further from postsecondary institutions.

Research Questions: The study will be guided by the following research questions:

  1. Are neighborhood characteristics (for example, resident demographic characteristics and geographic rurality) associated with the quality of child care centers/preschools in North Carolina?
  2. Is the density of child care centers/preschools within a neighborhood uniquely associated with the quality of these child care centers/preschools, after controlling for neighborhood characteristics?
  3. Is the distance to a postsecondary institution providing certificate or degree programs in early childhood education from a child care/preschool site uniquely associated with the quality of these sites, after controlling for neighborhood characteristics?

Study Design: A multilevel structural equation modeling framework for assessing multilevel mediation and multilevel moderation will be used to test the extent to which neighborhood characteristics are associated with the quality of child care centers in North Carolina. The sample to be analyzed represents, virtually in its entirety, the population of child care centers, homes and other preschools that are participants in the North Carolina QRIS system. ArcGIS, a geocoding software package, will be used to calculate such factors as the density of ECE providers within a neighborhood and proximity to postsecondary education institutions.

Projected Release Date: Late 2019

Partnership or Research Alliance: The REL Southeast will partner with John Pruette of the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction Office of Early Learning within the Southeast School Readiness Partnership.

Related Products: Making Connections report

Principal Investigators & Affiliation:
Dr. Beth M. Phillips
Associate Professor
Educational Psychology and Learning Systems Florida State University