Published January 1, 2005 | January 2005 issue
While the state ranks highest nationally in the number of children in day care, it could do much better in early childhood development, a recent study from the University of South Dakota concluded.
The state has the greatest need for day care of any state in the nation, with 73 percent of children under age 6 living in a single-parent or two-income household. Of state women with children, almost 64 percent work, compared with 58 percent nationwide—the highest rate nationally.
Consequently, day care has become a $124 million annual business in the state. Only 10 percent of that money comes from public sources like Head Start, with the lion's share coming from parents.
The study concludes that with the number of young children in day care, a public investment in early childhood education would benefit not only them, but the state as a whole.
Recent research has shown that during the earliest years of a child's life the most important learning takes place, laying the foundation for later cognitive skills. And policy-oriented studies, including some conducted by Minneapolis Fed researchers, have attested to the public return on spending focused on early childhood education.
Currently, however, only 4 percent of public education funding goes to children younger than 5.