Panel Paper: Patterns of Subsidized Children Enrollment Instability Among Child Care Providers

Saturday, November 10, 2018
Johnson - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Yoonsook Ha1, Pamela Joshi2, Kate Giapponi Schneider2 and Jocelyn Bowne3, (1)Boston University, (2)Brandeis University, (3)Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care

Instability in child care subsidy receipt (hereafter, subsidy instability) can influence the quality of care that child care providers offer to children receiving subsidies. Frequent changes in enrollment can make adult-child relationship building and attachment a challenge. Enrollment instability may also be disruptive and challenge teachers’ ability to sustain high quality interactions due to the attention needed to acclimate new children and resulting disruptions to smooth classroom functioning. Furthermore, enrollment instability can impact the stability of providers’ revenue streams, making it difficult to run their operating budgets and invest in quality improvement. Despite the potentially negative outcomes of subsidy instability from the provider’s perspective, prior studies predominantly focus on parental employment and child care arrangements as outcomes of subsidy instability. Little research has paid attention to enrollment churning of subsidized children that providers experience. This study is a first attempt to fill this knowledge gap by examining provider-level stability patterns in serving subsidized children.

The study uses a provider-level administrative dataset from Massachusetts that includes information on children who received child care subsidies from 9/2012 to 8/2014 (two school years). The sample includes 3,597 providers who served at least one subsidized child and were in business during the time period. The provider’s enrollment instability was measured by (1) the average subsidized child turnover rate and (2) the average subsidized child return rate. The analysis on the turnover rate focuses on the 2012-2013 school year and is measured as the number of subsidized children who left a provider during the school year divided by the total number of subsidized children who attended the provider during the same school year. The return rate is measured by the number of subsidized children who returned to the same provider divided by the number of subsidized children who left the provider over the two school years. We first describe the turnover and return rates for all providers in the sample and how the patterns of the turnover and return rates differ by key provider characteristics (e.g., center vs. family day care, age group served). Then, we use multivariate regression modeling to examine factors associated with the child turnover rate and return rate, respectively.

Findings show that child care providers in Massachusetts experienced, on average, a turnover rate of 41% of their subsidized enrollment per year and about half of children who left returned within the two school years. Centers experienced higher turnover than family child care providers. Both turnover and return rates are highest for the providers that serve only school-age children. Multivariate regression results show that providers that were longer in business, were accredited, and served more subsidized children, younger children and income-eligible children (compared to TANF-receiving children) were likely to have lower turnover rate compared to their counterparts. Providers serving school-age children and TANF-receiving children were likely to have higher return rate compared to their counterparts.

Policy Implications: The study findings provide implications for the improvement of policies and practices that can promote greater enrollment stability among subsidized children for child care providers.