Did you know that early childhood supports are crucial for a child’s success?

Posted on February 14, 2024

Alena Siddiqui Data Analyst

By Alena Siddiqui
Data Analyst

For more information on this topic or kids count data, contact Alena at asiddiqui@acnj.org

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In continuation of the 2024 Race for Results series, this week’s blog post focuses on Early Childhood. An emphasis on a child’s early years is essential to their well-being and their future. As advocates, decision makers, and concerned community members, it is crucial to understand data concerning young ones and how to best address any concerns so that all children have a strong foundation. 

For early childhood, the two indicators that The Annie E. Casey Foundation highlights are the percentage of babies born at a normal birthweight and the percentage of children enrolled in an early childhood program. Focusing first on the percentage of babies born at normal birthweight, this accounted for 92% of babies born in New Jersey in 2021 (Table 1). In comparison with 2016, the percentage of babies born at normal birthweight in New Jersey has not really seen any change even when broken down by race or ethnicity. The report cited that babies born at low birthweights (less than 5.5 pounds) may be at more risk of developing particular health problems than babies born at normal birthweights.

r4r part 2 blog table 1
r4r part 2 blog table 2.2

Based on data collected during 2017 to 2021, 70% of New Jersey’s children ages 3 to 5 were enrolled in nursery school, preschool, or kindergarten compared to 58% nationwide. The Annie E. Casey Foundation notes that early childhood education helps to give children a steady foundation for developing skills and learning. Comparing data from 10 years ago to now, this number was previously 73% (Table 2). Non-hispanic Black or African American children decreased from 77% to 71%, non-Hispanic White children decreased from 76% to 73%, and children of two or more races decreased from 73% to 68% in the past 10 years.

A possible explanation for this decrease is that during the COVID-19 pandemic, many parents chose not to enroll their children in the early childhood programs due to safety concerns, while others chose not due to costs. However, New Jersey has been making progress with more children attending state-funded, full-day preschool. As a result, more families have the opportunity to enroll their kids if they choose to do so.

The 2024 Race for Results report has many other interesting indicators with regard to the well-being of our children. You can learn more about the report and access it here.