Panel: Child Care Access and Stability Among Low-Income Families
(Child Policy)

Saturday, November 10, 2012: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Hopkins (Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Organizers:  Alejandra Ros, University of Chicago
Moderators:  Gina Adams, Urban Institute
Chairs:  Kristin Seefeldt, Indiana University

Research suggests that low-income children benefit from continuous, high-quality child care prior to school entry. However, a growing body of research suggests that low-income families face barriers to accessing and maintaining care that aligns with their needs and resources. The factors that influence families’ care selection, their ability to maintain stable care, and children’s developmental outcomes are complex. This panel exploits diverse data sources and methodological approaches with the goal of furthering understanding about the role individual, neighborhood, and policy characteristics play in shaping child care selection and stability, and the implications of arrangement stability for children’s well-being. The first paper examines the effects of neighborhood characteristics on child-care selection among low-income families. Using survey data from the Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Survey, a representative sample of 3000 families from Los Angeles County, the authors use multilevel models to examine individual and neighborhood characteristics that influence low-income families’ selection of different care types. They consider how the neighborhood’s poverty status, residential stability, share of immigrant-households, and share of female-headed households contribute to families’ selection of child care type (relative, non-relative, or center-based care), all else equal. This study furthers our knowledge regarding the role neighborhoods play in the availability of care and families’ subsequent care selection. The second paper provides insight into potential reasons for changes in child care providers among families using child care subsidies. The authors use administrative records from the Illinois Child Care Assistance Program from 2005 through 2007 to examine the extent and type of care instability. They consider differences in patterns of changes in providers within and between subsidy spells across child age-groups, racial/ethnic groups, by type of care, and by season. Through descriptive analyses, this study suggests potential reasons for changes in subsidized providers and identifies groups of children who may be most at-risk for arrangement instability. Moreover, the paper offers insight into whether care changes are intentional or driven by bureaucratic characteristics of the subsidy program. The third paper examines the association of child care instability with young children’s behavioral outcomes. Using survey and child care calendar data from the Fragile Families and Child Well-being Study, a nationally-representative sample of non-marital births in large U.S. cities, the authors examine the relationship between unstable and multiple, concurrent child care arrangements and 3-year-old children’s internalizing and externalizing behaviors. Multivariate regression analyses suggest that experiencing several changes in providers or multiple, concurrent providers is associated with an increase in behavior problems. This study provides evidence that stable child care is important for young children’s development and highlights the importance of stable and affordable early education programs for families. Utilizing diverse data sources and methods, this panel makes important contributions toward understanding the child care experiences of low-income families. Together, the papers further knowledge about the range of factors shaping child care access and stability and begin to explore implications for children’s well-being. The panel also offers practical information on child care use and children’s outcomes that may be of particular interest to researchers and policymakers.

Do Child Care Subsidies Increase Employment Among Low-Income Mothers?
Elizabeth Davis1, Caroline Carlin1, Nicole Forry2 and Caroline Krafft1, (1)University of Minnesota, (2)

Child Care Subsidy Use and Child Care (In)Stability: Evidence From Illinois
Amy Claessens, Alejandra Ros and Julia Henly, University of Chicago

Child Care Subsidies and Child Care Choices: What Role Does Household Structure Play?
Anna Markowitz, Rebecca Ryan and Anna Johnson, Georgetown University

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