Parental preferences and patterns of child care use among low-income families: A Bayesian analysis

Caroline Carlin, Elizabeth E. Davis, Caroline Krafft, Kathryn Tout

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Scopus citations


Parents’ selections of child care arrangements involve complex decisions made in the context of child and family needs, resources and constraints. This study analyzed data from a survey of low-income parents to examine the factors associated with the type of care arrangement used most often. We employed Bayesian estimation methods to account for the interrelated nature of parental employment and child care decisions. We incorporated parental preferences for characteristics of child care to predict the type of care setting based on a factor analysis of parent responses about the importance of different care characteristics. We found that latent factors that were associated with a higher probability of working, or of working more hours, also increased the probability of using centers or family child care, and decreased the likelihood of using family, friend or neighbor (informal) care. In concordance with the existing literature, low-income families in Minnesota were more likely to use informal care for infants (relative to preschool-age children), and households with more educated parents were more likely to use centers. Hispanic families were less likely to use any form of non-parental care. Given the potential of high-quality child care to increase the well-being and developmental trajectories of low-income children, understanding parents’ decisions about child care and employment is fundamental to improving child and family outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)172-185
Number of pages14
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
StatePublished - Apr 2019



  • Bayesian estimation
  • Child care
  • Low-income families
  • Maternal employment
  • Parent preferences

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