The Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE), part of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, has awarded a grant to an Education Development Center (EDC) team led by Clare Irwin, PEER co-director. The research team will use data from the National Survey of Early Care and Education (NSECE) to study working low-income parents’ access to child care. Other team members include David Bamat and Heidi Rosenberg, also of EDC.
Specifically, the team will study parents’ access to child care that matches their work schedules, explore how parents address gaps in child care coverage, and examine factors that affect whether parents experience coverage gaps. Past research has shown that low-income parents face many challenges to accessing child care, including unpredictable work schedules, non-traditional work hours, and the availability of care. The 2014 reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Act attempted to increase access to child care, particularly for working families. The EDC study aims to examine how access to child care, gaps in child care coverage, and parental decisions about child care changed between the 2012 and 2019 administrations of the NSECE.
Although federal funding through the Child Care Development Fund supports care for children from birth to age 12, many studies on child care access focus on young children, prior to kindergarten entry. The EDC study will examine child care access for the full range of ages served by Child Care Development Fund, including school-age children. The current health crisis underscores how much our nation relies on low-income essential workers. The research team hopes that findings from this study will inform national- and state-level policymakers about the barriers to child care access for low-income working families and lead to policies that better address these barriers.