Number of Kids Home Alone After School Has Risen

Still Not Enough Affordable Afterschool Programs to Keep Pace with Demand

teenagers after school

What are your children doing from the hours of 3pm to 6pm? Are they going to after school activities or club? Are they playing sports? Are they going home and playing video games alone on the couch?

Millions of school-age kids are going home to an empty house after school, and the number of kids home alone has actually increased over the past five years even as after school care is more plentiful.

The Afterschool Alliance conducted a national household survey of  30,709 families in 2046 to learn how many children participate in after school programs, how many are unsupervised after school, and how these numbers compare to five and ten years ago.

The America After 3PM study sponsored by the JC Penney Afterschool Fund essentially found that while afterschool programs today are serving significantly more children than in 2004 and 2009, more children today are home alone after school, and that the demand for safe, quality and affordable options is higher than ever. 

Key Findings

  • Today, 10.2 million children participate in an after school program, an increase from 2009 and 2004.. Nearly 1 in 4 families (23 percent) currently has a child enrolled in an after school program.
  • The number of children unsupervised in the hours after school, while on the decline, remains high. In communities across the United States, 11.3 million children are without supervision between the hours of 3 and 6 p.m. That number is down from 15.1 million in 2009 and 14.3 million in 2004, but 1 in 5 children still do not have someone to care for them after school.
  •  In 2014, approximately 19.4 million children not currently in an after school program would be enrolled in a program if one were available to them, according to their parents. By comparison, in 2009, parents of 18.5 million children said they would enroll their child in an after school program if one were available, up from parents of 15.3 million children in 2004.
  • As the economy continues to recover, after school programs are an essential source of support for working parents. After school programs give parents peace of mind when they are at work and help them keep their jobs. More than 8 in 10 parents of children in after school programs agree that after school programs help working parents keep their jobs. Overall, 3 in 4 parents agree that after school programs help give working parents peace of mind about their children when they are at work, and among parents with children in an after school program, agreement jumps to 85 percent. 

    High-Poverty Communities

    • More than nine in ten parents in communities of concentrated poverty report that they are satisfied overall with the experiences and opportunities provided by their child’s after school program.
    • Parents report that 56 percent of children in  communities of concentrated poverty who are not in after school programs would be enrolled, if programs were available. That compares to 41 percent of children who are not in after school programs nationwide, whose parents say they would be enrolled, if programs were available.
    • Two in three parents living in communities of concentrated poverty  report that finding an enriching environment for their child in the after school hours was a challenge, compared to 46 percent of parents living outside these communities.
    • Three in five parents living in  communities of concentrated poverty agree that current economic conditions have made it difficult for them to afford to place their child in an after school program, compared to 47 percent of parents living outside these communities. 
    • Seven in ten Hispanic and African-American children living in these communities who are not in an after school program would be enrolled if a program were available to them, their parents say. 
    • Summer learning program participation is high among children living in communities of concentrated poverty. Two in five parents living in a communities of concentrated poverty report that their child took part in a summer learning program, compared to 33 percent of children in the United States.
    • Demand for summer learning programs also is dramatically higher in communities of concentrated poverty than other communities. 

    Parents need to carefully consider the pros and cons of having a child stay home alone after school and to know whether a child is truly old and mature enough to be unsupervised after school.

    Additional information about the report can be viewed by going to the Afterschool Alliance website.


    Alliance, Afterschool. "America after 3PM: Afterschool programs in demand." Washington, DC: Afterschool Alliance (2014).

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