Equity for young people at
every step starts from

Early Childhood.

Birth Outcomes

For both babies and parents, birth outcomes are worse for DC’s Black and Latinx residents.

  • Eleven Black babies died in their first year out of every 1,000 live births, as did roughly four Latinx babies out of every 1,000 live births.
  • Between 2014 and 2018, there were 36 parental deaths due to complications related to pregnancy. 33 of those who died were Black and one was Latinx.
  • Medicaid is an important program for pregnant DC residents. During 2018, Medicaid covered almost 3,200 pregnant parents at the time of birth in the District, totaling 35% of all births in DC.

First Trimester DC Prenatal Care by Race (2021)

Race & Equity

Children Under 5 Living in Poverty







Healthy Development

Young children could benefit from more access to health supports.

  • DC’s population of children under 3 decreased 3% from 25,875 in 2016’s five-year-average to 25,228 in 2021’s 5-year average.
  • In 2021, nearly 1 out of 6 DC children in foster care (97) was under 3.
  • 72% of the DC residents receiving WIC (Supplemental Nutrition for Women, Infants, and Children) recipients are Black and 25% are Latinx. WIC participation declined for several years (from 75% of eligible people in 2008 to 45% in 2018) before a reduction in the estimated number of eligible District residents cause the rates to look better in 2019.
  • Vaccine coverage of kindergarten students is also declining. The percent of DC public school kindergartners that had been vaccinated for DTAP/DT has declined from 92% in the 2012-13 school year to 82% in the 2021-22 school year, with the same decline in the percentage vaccinated for MMR. And going beyond kindergarten, as of August 19, 2022 DC Health reported that 71% of District students have all required vaccinations (excluding COVID) leading into the 2022-2023 school year, though that percentage likely increased significantly during the first week of school.
  • Home visiting is a way of delivering prevention and early intervention services for expecting parents and families of young children. DC home visiting programs have the capacity to serve 1,437 children and families. In 2021, programs served 1,133 families.

DC Early Childhood Population Trends

Impacts of COVID-19

84% of child care centers reported staffing shortages on a 2021 survey, with most identifying low wages as the main challenge to recruitment and retention. In August 2021, the DC Council voted to increase compensation for early educators, paid for by a new tax increase on the District’s highest earners. The deadline to apply for the initial checks was Sept. 20, 2022. Newly hired and newly eligible early childhood educators can now apply for their payments through https://osse.dc.gov/ecepayequity.

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Early Care & Education

Early care and education subsidies reach roughly half of families who need them.

  • There are 2 infants and toddlers living in DC for each licensed early learning slot (12,442). In most of the District child care supply trails potential demand, while in areas with much lower child poverty (wards 2 and 3) supply is much closer to matching potential demand.
  • In fiscal year 2022 3,136 District infants and toddlers received child care subsidies, down from 5,173 in fiscal year 2019. While the number of infants and toddlers in the District has decreased slightly, there are still more than twice as many infants and toddlers in families who would be eligible for a subsidy based on income than there are infants and toddlers enrolled in the subsidy program. One barrier is the difficulty of finding a seat with a child care provider, especially one who participates in the subsidy program. DC needs thousands more seats to have one for every infant and toddler predicted to be in the District.
  • One hurdle to increasing child care capacity is the low pay that early learning providers receive. Early educators in DC’s community-based organizations earned an average annual salary of only $37,300 as of May 2021. In August 2021 the DC Council voted to increase compensation for early educators, paid for by a new tax increase on the District’s highest earners. In March 2022 the DC’s Early Educator Equitable Compensation Task Force put out detailed recommendations about how to implement a statewide, publicly funded permanent early educator compensation program.

DC Potential Demand for Each Licensed ECE Learning Slot

Race & Equity

Pre-K Public Enrollment (2021-22)








DC’s success in expanding pre-K is an example of what’s possible for infants and toddlers.

  • While public pre-K enrollment increased in all sectors from 2012 to 2018, charters and community-based organizations grew much faster than DCPS. However, between 2018 and 2020 enrollment in pre-K through DCPS and community-based organizations continued to grow whereas at charter schools it decreased, and since the COVID-19 pandemic began enrollment in charter school pre-K has decreased while in DCPS and community-based organizations it’s stayed flat or even increased.
  • Enrollment of four-year-olds continues to be higher than enrollment of three-year-olds, a pattern that was exacerbated by a sharper drop in three-year-old enrollment in the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years. While that is likely due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic (and enrollment did increase in the 2022-23 school year), a recent analysis by DC Policy Center suggests that declining births played a role as well.

Pre-K Enrollment by Site


Rosa Peleaz
Registered Family Provider, Brightwood

Real Stories

“Because of the lack of government support, the burden of helping families get back on their feet is financially falling on me. I have a big heart but this shouldn’t fall on me.”

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Find more information about all the early childhood measures in our data references section and visit our appendix to download a table with the full DC Kids Count 2022 data set.