A glass ceiling at the playhouse? Gender gaps in public and private preschool enrollment in India

Document Type

Article (peer-reviewed)

Publication Date



India has reduced male-biased gender gaps in primary school enrollment and progression rates in recent years. However, patterns of early childhood education enrollment, selection of preschool, and related gender gaps remain inadequately studied. This study uses data from India's National Family Health Survey (2019–2021), which collected preschool information for children aged 2–4 years, to examine female-male gaps in preschool enrollment. An estimated 40% of children were enrolled in preschools, and among them, 28% were enrolled in private preschools, with substantial variation across states. State, district, and household fixed-effects regressions, which accounted for a wide range of background characteristics of children, show that while preschool enrollment rates were 3.6–4.1% higher among girls than boys, girls were 9.3–16.7% less likely to be enrolled in higher quality private preschools. Using a mother fixed-effects regression, we found that while there was no gender gap in siblings’ preschool enrolment rates, girls were 18.6% less likely to be enrolled in private preschool than their brothers. The relative bias towards males in private preschool enrollment decreased with standard of living and maternal schooling levels. The findings indicate gender discrimination in enrollment in higher quality private preschool against young girls.






The Evidence for Gender and Education Resource (EGER); GIRL Center