Report | December 3, 2020

Early Childhood Programs’ Scarcity Undermines America's Rural Communities

Quality early care and education can bolster public safety, the economy, and national security

Child poverty in rural America is both more severe and more persistent than in non-rural areas, and there are also large racial and ethnic disparities. Overall, one-quarter of rural children under age 5 live in poverty. Counties with persistently high child poverty rates are disproportionately populated with children of color, and these children have a poverty rate more than double that of non-Hispanic white children in those same counties. At the same time, children in rural communities often lack resources and supports, including quality early childhood care and education.

High-quality early childhood education is critical to public safety because it lays the foundation for future learning and teaches children how to interact with others.

Jimmy Macon, Chief of Police, Harpersville, AL

High-quality early childhood care and education programs can help ameliorate the challenges faced by American children living in rural communities. These programs also strengthen the current and future workforce, contribute to a strong economy and public safety, and enhance national security in the long run.

High-quality early childhood education supports the workforce today and helps prepare the workforce of tomorrow.

Thomas Dempster, Director, IFAM Capital, four-term South Dakota State Senator

To meet the needs of children living in rural communities, policymakers should adapt and modernize federal early care and education programs and supports. There are several approaches to address the topic in a meaningful way, which are described in the report. Policymakers must support tailored investments for children in rural communities to help ensure the future strength of our nation.

Early childhood programs help develop youth who are more likely to be healthy and fit, do well in school, graduate, and be well-prepared for many life options after graduation, including military service if they choose that path.

Bill Libby, Major general, U.S. Army (retired), former Maine Adjutant General and former Maine Commissioner of the Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management

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