The contributors to this panel examine an emerging set of child care issues related to policy, outcomes for vulnerable and understudied families, and the relationship between care quality, children's characteristics and educational outcomes. In addition to the diverse topics covered, these papers also employ a range of analytic strategies, including advanced quantitative and qualitative methods, thereby broadening the appeal of the symposium to a wide and diverse audience.
Child care is recognized as an imperative resource for working families. Nonetheless, research has documented the difficulty families have in accessing and maintaining adequate child care, particularly among the working poor. Researchers, policymakers, and practitioners are primarily concerned with child care issues related to program access and participation among low-income families and outcomes among vulnerable children. This symposium addresses all of these important areas.
The first paper employs multivariate logistic regression models to estimate the relationship between state-level characteristics (population demographics, political characteristics, and TANF policies) and the relative stringency of child care subsidy policy choices across states. They consider six child care subsidy policies designed to shape access and maintenance of subsidies among low-income families: income eligibility, wait list policies, priority access for TANF families, reimbursement rates, copayment rates, and use of tiered income eligibility limits.
The second paper employs data from a nationally representative data set, the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study- Birth Cohort (ECLS-B), to examine the linear and nonlinear relationships between the quality of child care received and children's educational outcomes and the extent to which this relationship is stronger for children with sociodemographic risk. Overall, this paper finds a modest positive relationship between care quality and educational preparedness for at-risk children.
The third paper considers issues of selection bias and simultaneity in the relationship between subsidy use and earnings and the characteristics of mothers who benefit the most from using child care subsidies. This paper finds that the effect of child care subsidies varies across mothers depending on their characteristics. Moreover, mothers with the highest levels of human capital benefit most in earnings and employment patterns relative to others.
The final paper considers how low-income grandparent-headed households (GPHH) navigate child care issues with particular attention paid to the potential gaps in subsidy policies that may leave some of GPHH without access to care. Employing extensive interviews with both custodial grandmothers and service providers in Chicago, Illinois she finds that GPHH caregivers' child care decisions are influenced by their awareness of and access to various child care option
Taken together, these papers offer timely and important information on emerging areas of research in child care. These papers pay particular attention to policy, family context, and child well-being outcomes shaped by the child care patterns among diverse low-income families.