Instability in child care arrangements can negatively affect children's development, especially in low-income families. However, few studies have examined what predicts changes over time in child care arrangements. This paper presents findings from a unique multiyear study tracking child care use in low-income families. We estimate rich quantitative models to analyze the relationships among child, household, and care provider characteristics and four different types of changes. We find turnover in child care arrangements to be common in this low-income population. Over a period of six months, half of the children changed primary provider. Child care changes were frequently related to job loss, changes in family composition, or the changing availability of caregivers. While concerns have been raised that short spells of child care subsidy receipt cause child care instability, we found that subsidy use was not associated with higher rates of change. In addition, we found that the lower a parent's assessment of the child's experience in a particular arrangement in the prior time period, the higher the likelihood of changing providers by the next survey wave. These results indicate that low-income parents recognize quality factors and change arrangements to improve the quality of care.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors gratefully acknowledge funding for this study provided through the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation in the Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [grant numbers 90YE098 and 90YE0132]. The contents of this paper are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, the Administration for Children and Families, or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Davis also acknowledges the support of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Hatch Multistate Project NE-1049, and Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station Project MIN-14-081.
1. The Minnesota Child Care Choices study was conducted by Child Trends, the University of Minnesota and Wilder Research with funding from the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
- child care
- child care instability
- child care subsidy
- child development
- low-income families