Children's absenteeism from pre-K to kindergarten: A focus on children receiving child care subsidies

Our article in Early Childhood Research Quarterly
Wendy S. Wei,
Yoonsook Ha,
Published: 05.12.2023 Updated: 05.17.2023


As many as 48% of children in prekindergarten (pre-K) miss a month or more of the pre-K year (i.e., 10% or more of the school year), and high levels of absenteeism are associated with adverse academic and social-emotional outcomes in pre-K and in K-12. To date, no studies have examined absenteeism specifically among children receiving child care subsidies, a population of children who may be at greater risk for high absenteeism. Moreover, few studies have explored absenteeism in diverse early care and education (ECE) programs beyond public school pre-K or Head Start programs. This study uses administrative data from Massachusetts to address these gaps by (1) documenting absenteeism rates for children receiving subsidies during the pre-K year in both family child care (FCC) and center-based care (CBC) programs and in kindergarten; and (2) testing whether pre-K absenteeism is associated with kindergarten absenteeism in the full sample and by ECE program type. Results show that children enrolled in subsidized care were absent for an average 8.4% of the school year in pre-K and 5.9% of the school year in kindergarten. Absenteeism rates were lower in pre-K but slightly higher in kindergarten among children enrolled in FCCs, compared to those enrolled in CBCs (Pre-K: 7.2 versus 8.7%; Kindergarten: 6.2 vs 5.8%, respectively). Results from multilevel regression analyses showed that the associations between pre-K and kindergarten absenteeism were positive for children enrolled in both CBC and FCC programs. By documenting the prevalence of absenteeism among a sample of children receiving child care subsidies in diverse ECE programs, this study provides implications for ECE and child care subsidy research, policy, and practice.

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