Panel Paper: Child Care Subsidy Use Among Children of Immigrants

Saturday, November 10, 2012 : 2:25 PM
Schaefer (Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Anna Johnson, Columbia University and Elizabeth Votruba-Drzal, University of Pittsburgh

As the number of children in immigrant households[1]has grown – nearly doubling between 1990 and 2007 (Mather, 2009) – so has concern over evidence that children of immigrant parents enter less ready to learn than native-born children (Crosnoe, 2007). Early academic disparities between immigrant and native-born children are worrisome because such gaps may persist and widen into adolescence and adulthood.

Both policy makers and researchers have expressed hope that increasing access to early child care and education programs may represent one avenue for reducing inequalities across young children. Unfortunately, low-income families struggle to afford child care, an issue that is particularly salient for immigrant children as nearly half are low-income (Mather, 2009). To increase low-income families’ access to child care, the federal government provides child care subsidies through the state-administered Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF). However, little is understood about predictors of subsidy receipt, particularly among immigrant families. Existing research suggests that immigrant families are less likely to use subsidies than are their non-immigrant counterparts (e.g., Durfee & Meyers, 2006; Tekin, 2005). Yet no studies to date have explored predictors of subsidy use by immigrant families. Without knowing which immigrant families use subsidies, it is difficult to identify obstacles to subsidy receipt by this vulnerable population, and thus difficult to target subsidy outreach and enrollment efforts to increase participation in the program.

To address this important question, we use data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study – Birth Cohort (ECLS-B), a nationally representative study of approximately 10,000 children born in 2001. The ECLS-B collected information from parents on a range of family background characteristics and child care preference variables, and from parents and child care providers on characteristics of care and sources of assistance in paying for care. Additionally, the ECLS-B includes a sizable subsample (N =2,150) of immigrant families (with data on child care subsidy receipt), approximately 7% of whom used subsidies when their children were in preschool.

Preliminary results from logistic regression models predicting subsidy receipt among immigrant families reveal that subsidy recipients tend to be more disadvantaged than non-recipients. Specifically, subsidy recipients are more likely to be  Asian/other race versus white (OR=3.24, SE=1.75, p<0.05), more likely to be single (OR=1.79, SE=0.51, p<0.05), less likely to have higher income-to-needs ratios (OR=0.87, SE=05, p<0.05), and more likely to have received welfare at the previous data collection wave (OR=2.41, SE=1.01, p<0.05). They are also less likely to prioritize having a small number of children in their child’s group or class (OR=0.61, SE=0.14, p<0.05).

Findings from this study will inform federal and state policies, illuminating policy levers available for increasing access to child care and ultimately narrowing the school readiness gap between immigrant children and their native-born peers.

[1] For the purposes of this study, immigrant families and immigrant households are defined as households in which at least one parent was born in a country outside of the U.S, including U.S. territories. Correspondingly, children of immigrants are considered children with at least one immigrant parent.