The National Survey of Early Care and Education (NSECE) is a nationally representative study that documents the use and availability of child care and early education (CCEE) across the United States. The NSECE is funded by the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) in the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
In 2012, the NSECE gathered information from households with young children, center-based and home-based providers, and individuals working with children in center-based classrooms to assemble the first comprehensive national portrait of CCEE use and availability since the early 1990s. A new round of the NSECE recently took place in 2019 to help shed light on how the CCEE landscape had changed since the initial fielding of the study.
In March 2020, about a year after the 2019 NSECE data were collected, the COVID-19 pandemic struck the U.S. This national emergency has had an enormous impact on the CCEE sector, but consistent, representative data are not available to help us understand its impact. OPRE contracted with NORC to conduct a follow-up study with providers and classroom staff to learn more about how the pandemic has affected the CCEE community and what assistance is most needed to help it recover.
In 2021, NORC began work on the 2024 NSECE, which builds on findings from the 2012 and 2019 NSECE to allow for comparisons of supply and demand of CCEE over the 12 years that span data collection. The data will also support examination of the ways in which the CCEE field responded to policy initiatives between 2012 and 2024, including the period covering the COVID-19 pandemic.
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The 2024 NSECE
The 2024 NSECE will expand on the foundational study features of the 2012 and 2019 NSECE to advance knowledge of the complex and ever-changing dynamics of CCEE in the U.S. It will capture families' needs, preferences, and choices of non-parental care for children under age 13, alongside providers’ CCEE offerings. The 2024 NSECE will build on findings from the 2012 and 2019 NSECE, supporting examination of the ways in which the CCEE field responded to policy initiatives between 2012 and 2024, including the period covering the COVID-19 pandemic.
Currently the 2024 NSECE team is working on questionnaire design, analysis planning, and sample design. Data collection will begin in the fall of 2023. We anticipate that preliminary data files will be released beginning in fall 2025 and initial findings from the study are expected be released beginning in fall 2026.
2019 NSECE COVID-19 Follow-up Study
The NSECE COVID-19 Follow-up Study recontacted CCEE center-based and home-based providers and classroom staff who participated in the 2019 NSECE. Data collection took place between late fall 2020 and early 2022. Unlike the 2012 and 2019 NSECE where in-person prompting and interviewing occurred, this study had no in-person contacting. Instead, sample members were contacted by mail, email, and phone. Individuals participating in the study completed the survey via a web survey or by phone with an interviewer.
The information collected in these interviews will be paired with data from the 2019 NSECE to create a national picture of 2019 CCEE providers and classroom both before and during the pandemic. This effort will help us better understand how the pandemic has affected providers and classroom staff, how the CCEE supply available to families may have changed, and how providers and classroom staff might better be supported in future emergency situations. Data files are expected to be available in late 2022.
The 2019 NSECE
Because multiple policy and programmatic changes affecting the supply and quality of CCEE had been implemented since the 2012 NSECE, a new data collection effort took place to gather updated information. These data will help to answer several questions including:
- How did the characteristics of CCEE providers in 2019 compare to what was observed in 2012? Where and how did the supply of CCEE services change?
- How well was the availability of child care and early education programs meeting the needs of parents and children in 2019?
- What were the characteristics of the CCEE workforce in 2019?
- How did CCEE providers in 2019 blend funding from different sources to cover the costs of serving children from households of different incomes?
- What motivated providers in 2019 to provide early care and education?
The 2019 NSECE followed a similar design to the 2012 study, including surveying households with young children, center-based providers, home-based providers, and staff working in center-based classrooms.
Data collection for the 2019 NSECE occurred between fall 2018 and summer 2019. We released public-use data files throughout the summer and fall of 2020, which are available in the Child & Family Data Archive available
The 2012 NSECE
The 2012 NSECE included a set of four integrated, nationally representative surveys. These were surveys of: 1) households with children under age 13; 2) home-based providers of CCEE; 3) center-based providers of CCEE; and 4) the center-based provider workforce. Data was collected from more than 10,000 providers and 11,600 households to help better understand how well families’ needs and preferences aligned with providers’ offerings and constraints. The study used a provider-cluster approach for sampling all four surveys from the same small geographic areas. This approach allowed the survey to document the interaction of the supply of and demand for early care and education where it occurs—in local communities—while simultaneously capturing data that efficiently construct national estimates. Because the experiences of low-income families are of special interest in public policy addressing CCEE and school-age care, the NSECE oversampled low-income areas.
Data from the 2012 NSECE have been available since 2014. Prior to this, policymakers and practitioners at all levels had been trying to improve the current system of early care and education without full information—essentially, treating the patient without being able to examine him/her. Data collected from NSECE are providing the essential information for an accurate diagnosis.
A detailed discussion of 2012 NSECE methodology is currently available here.