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Abstract

While state government spending on early education has grown in recent years, accessibility of preschool programs for rural children remains a problem. Using census-tract data from a nationally-representative data set on U.S. children, multinomial logit estimation reveals significant differences in early education experiences between rural and nonrural children. Both rural children and children of less-educated mothers are less likely to participate in preschool. This paper concludes by discussing the appropriate role of local, state, or federal governments in funding rural preschool programs. While early educational investments are being touted as effective economic development tools, the nature of the positive externalities associated with preschool makes it unlikely that any single rural community would invest in high-quality programs without state or federal assistance.

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