Panel Paper: Child Care Subsidy Use and Child Care (In)Stability: Evidence From Illinois

Saturday, November 10, 2012 : 9:10 AM
Hopkins (Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Amy Claessens, Alejandra Ros and Julia Henly, University of Chicago

Stability and continuity in child care arrangements are important both for promoting children’s development and for supporting families’ economic well-being—both of which are key goals of child care subsidy programs.  Yet, across states, child care subsidy spells tend to be short-lived. Although research is limited, a handful of state-specific studies demonstrate that after leaving the subsidy program many families return within a few months after exiting, often with a new provider (Ha, 2009; Meyers et al., 2002).  One study also documents that provider changes are common even within a subsidy spell (Weber, 2005).  In this paper, our aim is to further understanding of the dynamics of subsidized child care provider changes that families experience both within and between spells on the program. Using administrative data from the Illinois Child Care Assistance Program, we build on the prior research by looking descriptively at the patterns of provider changes within subsidy spells and comparing them to patterns of provider changes between subsidy spells. By doing so, we begin to hypothesize about the child- and family-related and possible policy and programmatic reasons for these changes. 

To investigate child care provider changes within and between subsidy spells, we use administrative data from the Illinois Child Care Assistance Program tracking system composed of children who are new entrants (have not received a subsidy for at least one year) to the program between January 2005 and December 2005 (N=72,562).  Each child is observed for 24 months after first entering the program. Child care provider changes between subsidy spells are defined as provider changes that occur between the end of one spell and the beginning of the next spell, and child care provider changes within spells are defined as provider changes that occur during a period of continuous subsidy receipt. Preliminary results show that on average children experience 1.6 different child care providers while in the program.  About one-fifth (20.2%) of children experience at least one provider change within a spell, and slightly more (23.3%) experience at least one change between spells.  Of the children who exit and re-enter the subsidy program (i.e. have at least two subsidy spells), 38.3% return to the program with a new provider.  We will examine differences in these patterns of provider changes across different sub-groups of children—by child age-groups and race/ethnicity—as well as differences by type of child care provider and by season.  This descriptive investigation will allow us to begin to hypothesize about the reasons for child care provider changes among child care subsidy users, and help to inform child care subsidy program policies and practices around stability of care.  The proposed paper is part of a larger project focused on the factors that contribute to child care instability for families in the subsidy program. These administrative analyses will inform the larger, mixed methods study that uses qualitative interviews and survey data to further develop and test hypotheses regarding factors that explain subsidy and provider dynamics among program participants.