NORC at the University of Chicago is partnering with the Walton Family Foundation to study the supply and demand of early childhood education programs in Washington and Benton counties, Arkansas. This project focuses on the unique economic and social characteristics of these two counties in Northwest Arkansas. Understanding factors such as density of households with young children, parents' preferences, availability of high quality home-based and center-based programs, and what these programs charge parents will help define the local supply and demand relationship.
NORC has planned a three phase study to investigate the availability, quality, and affordability of early childhood education (ECE) programs in Northwest Arkansas. Using geographic information systems (GIS) techniques and publicly available data on households and ECE programs, the first phase of the project aims to understand the different types of ECE facilities and providers in Washington and Benton counties, and how many and what types of providers are located near families of different kinds throughout the region.
The second phase uses interviews with center-based directors, center-based teachers, and classroom observations to better understand how providers decide on pricing and the number of children they serve, and how they balance these factors with the quality of the programs they offer families in the area.
The third phase involves a survey of households with young children to understand how parents perceive quality in ECE settings and how quality enters into their ECE choices relative to other factors such as cost, schedule, and location. The project concludes by synthesizing the information from all three phases to develop an understanding providers' opportunities and barriers to offering high(er)-quality care, and households' incorporation of quality factors into their decision-making.
This project is an opportunity to provide actionable research to the Walton Family Foundation, research that will ultimately provide appropriate and effective interventions for improving early childhood education access in Washington and Benton counties.