Supporting the Child Care Needs of Low-Income and Immigrant Families: Program Stability, Care Arrangements, and Child Outcomes

Saturday, January 17, 2015: 2:30 PM-4:15 PM
Balconies L, Fourth Floor (New Orleans Marriott)
Cluster: Work, Family, and Family Policy
Symposium Organizer:
Alejandra R. Pilarz, MA, University of Chicago
Marci Ybarra, PhD, University of Chicago
High-quality and stable child care is important for supporting both children’s development and parental employment.  Publicly-subsidized child care programs have the potential to achieve these goals but oftentimes fall short.  Child care subsidy program spells are often short-lived with families cycling in and out of the program and with adverse implications for child care stability.  Although Head Start overall has had beneficial effects on children’s school readiness, program quality varies widely and there may be important sub-group differences. This symposium examines three key issues that advance our understanding of how subsidized child care programs contribute to child and family outcomes: the determinants of subsidy instability; the effects of subsidy policies on child care stability; and the effects of Head Start and other preschool programs on school readiness among children of immigrants.  Additionally, the three studies use diverse quantitative methods and focus on two sub-populations that are of special interest to social work researchers and practitioners: low-income families eligible for subsidies and children of immigrants.

The first paper considers how parents’ employment characteristics and experiences with the subsidy program relate to subsidy continuity. Using a unique dataset of subsidy clients in Illinois and New York and multivariate logistic regression, the authors examine how unstable job characteristics and problems with the subsidy application process and subsidy payments relate to the likelihood of exiting the program.  By suggesting that both employment and subsidy program factors contribute to subsidy instability, the findings improve our understanding of why families exit the program.

The second paper focuses on how differences in state-level subsidy policies relate to a key aspect of child care (in) stability—multiple, concurrent arrangements.  Using data from a nationally-representative study, the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study—Birth Cohort (ECLS-B), and difference-in-difference methods, this study finds that both the generosity and restrictiveness of states’ subsidy policies predict the use of multiple arrangements and that these relationships differ by the type of care used.  These findings advance knowledge about how subsidies relate to parental child care decision-making and child care stability.

The third paper examines how Head Start and other publicly- and privately-funded preschool programs contribute to school readiness among children of Asian and Hispanic immigrants. Using data from the ECLS-B and multivariate regression models, results suggest that attending any type of preschool program is associated with better academic outcomes relative to parental care only; however, these associations differ by immigrant group and mother’s level of acculturation.  Additionally, attending Head Start is associated with more adverse socio-emotional outcomes relative to parent care.  These findings suggest the effects of preschool vary in important ways for children of Asian and Hispanic immigrants and highlight the importance of increasing accessibility to high-quality preschool programs.

Together, these studies advance our understanding of how child care programs impact children and families and have important implications for child care subsidy and Head Start programs.  Overall, the findings suggest the importance of focusing policy efforts on both stability and quality of child care programs serving low-income and immigrant families.

* noted as presenting author
Employment and Program Factors Associated with Exiting the Child Care Subsidy Program
JaeSeung Kim, MSW, University of Chicago; Julia R. Henly, PhD, University of Chicago; Alejandra Ros Pilarz, MA, University of Chicago; Heather Sandstrom, PhD, Urban Institute; Amy Claessens, PhD, University of Chicago
Child Care Subsidies and Multiple Child Care Arrangements
Alejandra R. Pilarz, MA, University of Chicago
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