Panel Paper: Child Care Subsidies and Multiple Child Care Arrangements

Friday, November 7, 2014 : 9:10 AM
Jemez (Convention Center)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Alejandra Ros-Pilarz, University of Chicago
Prior research suggests that low-income, working families often rely on multiple, concurrent child care arrangements in order to manage work and caregiving needs and that this is largely driven by employment and child care market constraints, including the affordability and availability of non-parental care (Chaudry, 2004; Henly & Lyons, 2000; Scott, London, & Hurst, 2005).  By reducing cost constraints and increasing access to care, child care subsidies may reduce low-income families’ need to rely on multiple arrangements, which have been associated with adverse child behavioral outcomes (Claessens & Chen, 2013; Morrissey, 2009; Pilarz & Hill, Accepted).  Moreover, the generosity and restrictiveness of states’ child care subsidy programs may also matter.  More generous state policies should increase the affordability of care, especially more formal care, and may result in a lower likelihood of using multiple arrangements, whereas restrictive policies that constrain parents’ choices may lead to a greater likelihood of using multiple arrangements.  While prior studies suggest that subsidy use and more generous subsidy policies are each associated with greater use of center-based care relative to home-based care (Tekin, 2005; Washbrook et al., 2011), these studies tend to focus on the child’s primary arrangement and have not considered the use of multiple arrangements. The purpose of this study is to advance knowledge about how subsidies relate to parents’ child care decisions by examining the associations between the generosity and restrictiveness of state-level subsidy policies and the use of multiple arrangements.

Using data from a nationally-representative study of children born in the U.S. in 2001, the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort, this study examines the associations between state subsidy policies in FY2000 and the use of multiple arrangements when children are 9 months and 2 years in age (N=8600).  Using difference-in-difference methods, analyses test whether the generosity and restrictiveness of state subsidy programs predict the use of multiple arrangements among low-educated, single mothers when compared to low-educated, married mothers.  Provider reimbursement rates and the total amount of state subsidy spending are used as measures for subsidy program generosity.  Restrictiveness is measured based on whether the state places limits on home-based care and exempts care provided by relatives from health and safety regulations.  Multiple arrangements are defined as two or more concurrent home-based arrangements (care provided by a relative or non-relative) and as two or more home- and center-based arrangements, and are compared to using a single relative (home-based) arrangement; single non-relative (home-based) arrangement; single center-based arrangement; and parent care only.  Preliminary results suggest that more generous subsidy policies predict a lower likelihood of using multiple home-based arrangements compared to a single non-relative or single center arrangement, and a greater likelihood of using multiple home- and center-based arrangements compared to a single relative arrangement.  Results also suggest that less restrictive policies predict a greater likelihood of using a single relative arrangement compared to multiple arrangements of either type.  Findings from this study will provide new insight into how subsidies may influence parental child care decision-making and have important implications for states’ subsidy programs.