Investing in a Bright Future for All of Colorado’s Kids: The Importance of Providing Early Childhood Care and Education to Children in Immigrant Families

Date Posted: December 1, 2011

Wide gaps exist in the well-being of Colorado’s children in immigrant families and their counterparts in U.S.-born families, according to Investing in a Bright Future for All of Colorado’s Kids: The Importance of Providing Early Childhood Care and Education to Children in Immigrant Families, released December 15, 2011. But, those gaps could be reduced by expanding access to high-quality, culturally-competent early childhood programs, ensuring all Colorado kids get the best possible start in life.

While the vast majority of children in immigrant families in Colorado (87 percent) were born in the U.S. and therefore are entitled to all the rights that accompany U.S. citizenship, data show they often fare far worse than children in U.S.-born families. The report does not analyze the citizenship status of the 13 percent of children in immigrant families who were not born in the U.S.

Among the report’s findings:

  • Children in immigrant families in Colorado are nearly twice as likely to live in poverty as children in U.S.-born families (27 percent versus 15 percent). More than half of all Colorado children in immigrant families live in low-income households, compared to about a third of children in U.S.-born families.
  • Colorado children in immigrant families are more likely than children in U.S.-born families to live in two-parent households (79 percent versus 70 percent).
  • Children in immigrant families are less likely to be enrolled in early learning programs than children in U.S.-born families at 3 and 4 years old.
  • Colorado’s gap in 4th grade reading proficiency between students who are English Language Learners and those who are fluent in English was the second-largest in the country in 2011.

The report identifies proven strategies to improve the well-being of Colorado children in immigrant families, such as expanding access to high-quality, culturally-competent early childhood care and education, and included strategies that would require minimal financial investments to implement. Specifically, the report recommends strengthening the exchange of information between immigrant-serving organizations and early childhood providers, recruiting representatives from immigrant communities to serve on Early Childhood Councils, and providing professional development opportunities to train early learning providers in working with students who are English Language Learners.

The report also analyzed Colorado’s changing demographics. According to the report, children in immigrant families, defined as a child who is foreign-born or, in most cases, U.S.-born with at least one foreign-born parent, represent the fastest-growing segment of the child population in the United States. In 2009, more than one-fifth of Colorado’s 1.2 million children lived in immigrant families, compared to about one in four in the U.S. The growth in the number of children in immigrant families is one piece of a broader demographic shift happening in Colorado and across the U.S. According to population projections from the State Demography Office, children of color will make up the majority of Colorado’s child population in 2021.

Investing in a Bright Future for All of Colorado’s Kids: The Importance of Providing Early Childhood Care and Education to Children in Immigrant Families