Going the Distance: Disparities in Pre-K Enrollment in Higher-Quality Schools by Geographic Proximity, Race/Ethnicity, Family Income, and Home Language

April 2023
Meghan McCormick, Mirjana Pralica, JoAnn Hsueh, Christina Weiland, Amanda Ketner Weissman, Anna Shapiro, Samantha Xia, Cullen MacDowell, Samuel Maves, Anne Taylor, Jason Sachs

This study leverages six years of public prekindergarten (pre-K) and kindergarten data (N = 22,469) from the Boston Public Schools (BPS) to examine enrollment in BPS pre-K from 2012–2017 for students from different racial/ethnic, socioeconomic, and linguistic groups. The largest differences in enrollment emerged with respect to race and ethnicity—and for enrollment in programs in higher-quality schools (defined as schools scoring in the top quartile on third-grade standardized tests)—with disparities increasing over time. Although there were no differences across groups in proximity to BPS pre-K programs in general, Black students lived about a quarter of a mile farther than their White peers from the nearest program in a higher-quality school, with gaps widening over time. Closer proximity was associated with a higher likelihood of enrollment in a program in a higher-quality school. Implications for future research and policy are discussed.