The Society for Social Work and Research

2013 Annual Conference

January 16-20, 2013 I Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina I San Diego, CA

Understanding Child Care Selection and Change Among Low-Income Families

Sunday, January 20, 2013: 10:45 AM-12:15 PM
Nautilus 5 (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
Cluster: Work, Family, and Family Policy
Symposium Organizer:
Marci Ybarra, PhD, University of Chicago
Prior research has found that high quality, stable child care positively impacts children’s developmental outcomes while supporting parental work. At the same time, research has also documented the difficulty low-income families have in accessing and maintaining adequate, quality child care. Because of the importance of stable, quality child care, researchers are interested in factors that shape such arrangements for low-income children. The contributors to this panel examine an emerging set of child care issues in this area: changes in child care providers during and between child care subsidy enrollment, the role of neighborhood characteristics in child care availability and selection, and child care quality perceptions and related parental decisions in care. These papers employ a range of quantitative analytic strategies and diverse data sources (administrative and survey) from three different states (Illinois, Ohio, California), thereby broadening the appeal of the panel to a diverse audience.

The first paper examines the effects of neighborhood characteristics on child-care availability, selection, and arrangements using survey data from the Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Survey. The paper illustrates how neighborhoods’ child care availability and socioeconomic characteristics shape families’ selection of care type (parental, relative, non-relative, or center-based care). Descriptive analysis finds that the type of care used varies by the age of the child and family income, and those with very young children are more likely to utilize relative care. Families in the poorest neighborhoods are less likely to use center-based arrangements suggesting that neighborhood context matters in families’ selection of child care arrangements even after controlling for other observables.

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 and by type of care.  Based on these descriptive analyses, the authors hypothesize about potential bureaucratic and family reasons for changes in subsidized providers and consider both negative and positive implications of distinct patterns in and out of different types of arrangements.

The third paper considers issues related to child care quality by exploiting the recent implementation of a new, child care quality rating system in Ohio. The paper uses a survey of 75 teachers and 327 parents from a stratified random sample of child care centers ranked by the new quality rating system. This paper considers overall perceptions of the quality rating system by teachers and parents, differences in perceptions between teachers and parents and differences by the type of child care (star-rating level) used. Findings suggest that the new rating system improved teachers’ and parents’ understanding of child care quality and shaped parental care choices for some families. This paper addresses a dearth in the literature on how quality ratings systems may shape child care selection and decision-making among families.

* noted as presenting author
Neighborhood Effects On Child-Care Decision-Making Among Low-Income Families
Yoonsook Ha, PhD, Boston University; Marci Ybarra, PhD, University of Chicago
Child Care Subsidy Use and Child Care (In)Stability: Evidence From Illinois
Alejandra Ros, MA, University of Chicago; Amy Claessens, PhD, University of Chicago; Julia R. Henly, PhD, University of Chicago
Step up to Quality: Stakeholder Perceptions of Ohio's Child Care Quality Rating System
Amber Moodie-Dyer, PHD, Ohio State University; Cynthia Buettner, PhD, Ohio State University; Lieny Jeon, MS, Ohio State University
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