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Why Smart Start Matters

The Heckman Equation: Make greater investments in young children to see greater returns in education, health and productivity. Read the article here.

Watch this short video from “The Ounce” to better understand the benefits of investing in early childhood education.

First Five Birthdays: Watch this video created for the 2013 Pledge Breakfast for Children’s Champions to better understand the importance of the first 2,000 of life and the impact of Smart Start for young children in our community.

Community Profile
North Carolina’s Smart Start early education initiative is designed so that each county identifies and addresses its most pressing needs.

There are two types of child care facilities: child care centers and family child care homes. All licensed facilities are given ratings, ranging from 1 to 5, by the NC Division of Child Development and Early Education to reflect their quality standards. For more information about the rating system, click here.

searchable data link

Did You Know?

  • New Hanover County (NHC) has 98 licensed child care programs, 65 are centers and 33 are family
    child care homes. (, March 2018)
  • Of all the licensed programs in NHC, 65% of the centers and 18% of homes have a 4 or 5 star rating. (, March 2018)
  • Among birth to five year old children enrolled in centers in NHC, 71% are in 4 or 5 star
    licensed centers. Among birth to five year old children enrolled in homes in NHC, 23% are in 4-5 star licensed homes. (, March 2018)
    3.5 is the average star rating for child care centers and homes in NHC. (NC Division of Child Development and Early Education, calculated June 2018)
  • In NHC, 4,376 children birth to five and 1,156 school-age children are enrolled in licensed child care programs.  (, March 2018)
  • In NHC, there are an estimated 11,590 children ages birth to five years old who have not yet entered kindergarten.  (, 2018)

Economic Impact of Quality Early Childcare

  • Licensed child care programs employ 725 people directly, and also contribute to the economy through purchases of goods and services provided by other businesses in their communities and state. (, March 2018)
  • Approximately 8,922 children under six in the county live in families where their sole parent or both parents are working. The need for quality child care is critical to the economic viability of these families and businesses.  (, March 2018)
  • Most families in New Hanover County cannot afford the full cost of child care. Low-income families and families with more than one child have to pay a high percentage of their income for care. Often, little is left in the family’s budget for food, medical, clothing, travel or other basic living expenses. Due to the high cost of child care, parents often make difficult choices. Some may be forced to seek TANF. Others may seek cheaper, often inadequate child care or leave their children unattended. (, March 2018)
  • In January 2018, the county served 1,392 different children with child care subsidy and had 785 eligible children on the waiting list for subsidy. (, March 2018)

New Hanover County (NHC) and North Carolina (NC) Children: Quick Facts

  • Children under 5 make up 5.1% of the population in NHC.  (, 2018)
  • 30% of children ages birth to 5 live in poverty in NHC.  (, 2011)
  • 46% of children under age 18 live in families with incomes less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level in 2016 in NC.
  • 67% of children ages 3-4 living below 200% poverty were not in school in 2016 in NC. (, 2018)
  • 28.5% of children ages 2-4 are overweight or obese.  (NC Nutrition and Physical Activity Surveillance System, 2011)
  • 4% of children under 18 are uninsured in 2016 in NC (8% in 2011). (, 2018)
  • 3.7% of children ages birth to 3 receive early intervention services for special needs.  (, 2010)
  • 10% of kindergarteners have untreated tooth decay.  (, 2009)
  • In 2011, there were 210 pregnancies to mothers ages 15-19.  (, 2001)

Useful Links

Good Reads: Studies on the Impact of Early Education

From Birth to School: Examining the Effects of Early Childhood Programs on Educational Outcomes in NC (2010) Kenneth Dodge, Ph.D, Helen Ladd, Ph.D, and Clara Muschkin, Ph.D. Center for Child and Family Policy Duke University

  • Higher grade 3 standardized reading test scores.
    Scores are higher in counties that received higher allocations for Smart Start. The Smart Start investment was equivalent to about 2 months of instruction on average.
  • Reduction in special education placements by grade 3.
    About 10% fewer children were placed in special education by grade 3, which amounts to an expected savings in special education costs at least equal to the cost of the Smart Start program.
  • The positive effect was seen for all children but is highest among the group of children for whom the initiatives were targeted–children at risk for academic failure.
  • This strategy permits estimation of total effects–direct effects and spill-over effects to non-participants, and is well suited for an initiative like Smart Start. Because Smart Start offers a wide variety of programs (e.g., parenting classes, screenings in doctors’ offices, improvements in the quality of child care) and children participate at different rates, it is impossible to identify the program or combinations of programs in which each child participated.

High/Scope Perry Preschool Study (2005) Schweinhart, L.J., Montie, J., Xiang, Z., W.S., Belfield, C.R., & Nores, M.

  • This study, perhaps the most well-known of all High/Scope research efforts, examines the lives of 123 African Americans born in poverty and at high risk of failing in school.
  • From 1962-1967 at ages 3 and 4, the subjects were randomly divided into a program group that received a high-quality preschool program. In the study’s most recent phase, 97% of the study participants still living were interviewed at age 40. Additional data were gathered from the subjects’ school, social services and arrest records.
  • The study found that adults at age 40 who had the preschool program had higher earnings, were more likely to hold a job, had committed fewer crimes and were more likely to have graduated from high school than adults who did not have preschool.