Day Care Centers: 1976-1984--Has Supply Kept Up With Demand?

05/01/1986

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Day Care Centers: 1976-1984--Has Supply Kept up with Demand?

William R. Prosser

Office of Social Services Policy, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

May 1986

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This paper was prepared by the Office of Social Services Policy (now the Office of Disability, Aging and Long-Term Care Policy) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. For additional information, you may visit the ASPE home page at http://aspe.hhs.gov. The ASPE Project Officer was William Prosser.

The views expressed in this technical analysis paper are those of the author and should not be construed as necessarily representing the official position or policy of 'the Department of Health and Human Services or any office therein.


INTRODUCTION

This paper analyzes the growth of day center capacity in the United States over two points In time, 1976 and 1984, and compares it to the change in potential demand for day care caused by the increased numbers of mothers with young children who were in the labor force. It concludes that day care center supply increased more than the number of young children who have mothers in the labor force.

BACKGROUND

Over the last several decades the labor force participation of women, particularly mothers with young children, has substantially increased. In 1976 the labor force contained 5.4 million mothers with 6.4 million children under the age of six. By 1984 there were 8.0 million women in the labor force who had a total of 9.3 million children under six years of age---a 45 percent increase in the number of children.

As shown in Table 1. surveys of mothers in the labor force indicate that they use a variety of child care arrangements for children under six, as well as for older children. Generally, these arrangements were made in informal situations---other peoples' homes (40%) or the children's own home (30%), more often with relatives than non-relatives---rather than in child care centers (15%). However, the trend since 1965, when the first data on child care arrangements of working women became available, has shown an increasing use of group (center) care. Group care accounted for about six percent the arrangements for children under six years of age in 1965 and about 15 percent in 1982. Mothers working full-time were about twice as likely to use center care as mothers working part-time.

While these data clearly indicate that day/child care is not synonymous with center care, the general public often views it that way. This paper, while not wishing to perpetuate this misconception will analyze only the supply of child care provided by day care centers.

TABLE 1. Child Care Arrangements of Working Mothers, 1958-1982(Children under six years old)*
Arrangement Percent
1982 1977 1965 1958
Group Care 15 13 6 NA
   employed full time 19 14 8 5
   employed part time 8 9 3 NA
In Home 31 32 47 NA
   employed full time 26 27 47 57
   employed part time 39 40 47 NA
Out of Home 40 40 31 NA
   employed full time 44 46 37 27
   employed part time 35 29 17 NA
Sub-Total: In-& Out of Home 71 72 78 NA
   by relative 44 42 46 NA
   by non-relative 37 30 32 NA
SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Census, Current Population Reports, Series p-23, nos. 117 and 129; 1982, 1983.* The reports for 1965 and 1958 do not include five year olds. Five year olds in kindergarten could cause some discrepancies in comparisons across years, but probably would not affect the general picture of group care for children whose mothers work full time.

Recently, the Children's Defense Fund (CDF) published Child Care: Whose Priority? A State Child Care Fact Book 1985. The fact book contains data for 1984 obtained by telephone interviews with state officials responsible for licensing child care. Data on the number of centers is reported for 49 states and the District of Columbia. (Alaska is not reported.) The licensed capacity (number of children) for these centers is reported for 34 states and D.C. In 1978, Abt Associates published Day Care Centers in the U.S. A National Profile 1976 - 1977. This report contained the estimated number of day care centers, their capacity, and the estimated accuracy of state licensing lists for all 51 jurisdictions.

The following section compares the state day care center data from these two reports to analyze the apparent growth in the child care center industry.

ANALYSIS

CDF reports that in 1984 there were 61,926 centers on state licensing lists. For the 35 jurisdictions with data on center capacity, there were slots for 2.47 million children. No adjustments were made to the reports given by state licensing officials to compensate for the accuracy of such lists.

In 1976, Abt conducted a study to estimate the total U.S. supply of day care centers and the characteristics of these centers. They found that licensing lists contained a number of facilities which at that point in time did not meet their definition of day care center---provides non-live in child care, has a capacity for 13 or more children, has at least one child enrolled for 25 or more hours per week, was operating at the time of the survey, is open at least 9 months of the year, and enrolls a majority of non-handicapped children. When calling a sample of names on licensing lists from each state, they found nationwide that about 62 percent of the facilities listed met their definition. We do not know whether problems like those found in 1976 still exist in 1984. Lists could be better or worse. However, we believe that it is more accurate read prudent to adjust the 1984 figures downward. This analysis uses the Abt adjustment factor for each state. Adjusting the CDP 1984 data, we conservatively estimate 39,293 centers with a total capacity in the same 35 jurisdictions of 1.61 million slots.

TABLE 2. Number of Licensed Day Care Centers and Their Capacity, 1976-1984
  1984 1976
Number of licensed centers 61,926 29,368
Accuracy of licensing lists Unknown 62%
Adjusted number of centers 39,293 18,307
Number of States with data   centers   center capacity  5035  5151
Licensed capacity, adjusted, 35 jurisdictions (slots) 1,609,555 773,826
Licensed capacity, estimated, 51 jurisdictions (slots) 2,076,506 1,006,905
Average center capacity (slots) 48 52
SOURCE: Children's Defense Fund, Child Care: Whose Priority? A State Child Care Fact Book 1985, 1985. Abt Associates Inc., Day Care Centers in the U.S. A National Profile 1976-1977, 1978.

For 1976, Abt reported 18,307 centers with a total capacity of 1.01 million slots (51 jurisdictions) and 0.77 million slots in the same 35 jurisdictions as reported by the Children's Defense Fund. (See Table 2. above and Appendix Tables A.l.-A.4. for state-level data.)

Estimating the capacity of centers in the 16 states that did not report capacity data was accomplished using two methods: (a) the 1984 average capacity (48 children) of day care centers found for the 35 jurisdictions reporting data multiplied by the number of centers; and (b) the average capacity found in 1976 for each of the 16 missing states multiplied times each state's number of centers. These two procedures give estimates of an additional 0.76 to 0.83 million slots; which brings the total estimated slots for 1984 to about 2.1 million slots; compared to 1.0 million in 1976.

The number of centers and their capacity have more than doubled f rom 1976 to 1984. In several states like Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Texas the increase has been even more substantial. (However, the data look like there might be an error in the CDF estimate of number of centers in New Hampshire. See Table A.3.)

There is only one state, Arkansas, where the capacity may have decreased. (However, the number of centers in Arkansas did increase. If capacity actually declined, it was caused by a decline in the average number of children per center.)

Day care centers predominately serve children under the age of six. The Abt study reported that the centers' age mix included about 85 percent of children under this age. Since 1976, parents have increased their use of center care for school age children. But, parents also have increased their use of center care for infants. So, centers probably retain approximately the same age mix with at least 80 percent of children served under the age of six.

The increase in capacity nationwide can be compared with the increase in the number of children younger than six whose mothers work to estimate the change in the availability of center care for this population. In 1976 centers could serve 15.6 percent of these children (1.02 million slots/6.4 million children), while in 1984 centers could serve 22.6 percent (2.1 million slots/9.3 million children). This calculation of growth in the day care center industry uses very conservative assumptions. It is quite possible thai the growth has been even more significant than shown here. On the other hand, since we have not compared the growth in centers with the growth in working mothers by state, we can not say whether the change,in supply has been more pronounced in some states over others.1

CONCLUSION

Whether this increase in supply is sufficient to reasonably satisfy the demand for center care is a hotly contested issue. No doubt the growth has been uneven from community to community. It also must be noted that cost can be a barrier to the accessibility of center care to some parents, particularly, those with lower incomes, and that an increase in slots, therefore, does not guarantee an increase of center care availability for all children. However, generally it appears that the availability of center care for children under six whose mothers work has improved rather than deteriorated since the mid-seventies.

NOTES

  1. In a recent paper---Sandra Rofferth and Deborah Phillips, "Working Mothers and the Care of Their Children: 1970 to 1995," NICHD/NAEYC, 1986 (unpublished manuscript)---the authors multiply the unadjusted number of centers, 61,079 (not including an estimate for Alaska), reported by the Children's Defense Fund, times an average enrollment of 75 children (based on their personal communication with R. Neugebaur) and estimate in 1985 that centers could enroll slightly over 4.5 million children. Their estimate is more than twice the estimate made in this paper and would imply that there was enough center..slots on a nationwide basis to serve over 40% of the children under six years of age whose mothers work.

APPENDIX

TABLE A.1. 1984
State Number of Licensed Child Care Number of Licensed Child Care Adjusted-1976 List Accuracy Total Center Capacity Total Center Capacity Adjusted 1976 List Accuracy Average Center Capacity
Alabama 919 693 40,000 30170 44
Alaska (est.)* 75 44 NA NA NA
Arizona 741 471 55,000 34939 74
Arkansas 750 431 23,350 13419 31
California 6,959 3392 348,032 169648 50
Colorado 850 414 45,039 21934 53
Connecticut 1,112 983 46,955 41490 42
Delaware 138 112 NA NA NA
Dist. of Col. 300 193 14,444 9307 48
Florida 3,849 2642 266,000 182609 69
Georgia 1,875 1407 NA NA NA
Hawaii 360 283 19,266 15130 54
Idaho 840 376 NA NA NA
Illinois 2,355 1230 112,394 58693 48
Indiana 527 432 36,452 29885 69
Iowa 1,114 729 33,791 22104 30
Kansas 958 354 NA NA NA
Kentucky 1,024 653 31,413 20023 31
Louisiana 2,000 1556 NA NA NA
Maine 175 99 6,775 3848 39
Maryland 833 664 35,034 27931 42
Massachusetts 1,756 703 63,225 25321 36
Michigan 2,480 1028 NA NA NA
Minnesota 1,040 646 36,706 22795 35
Mississippi 1,135 709 54,224 33873 48
Missouri 700 637 38,000 34574 54
Montana 125 90 4,000 2880 32
Nebraska 256 83 NA NA NA
Nevada 226 166 NA NA NA
New Hampshire 1,000 657 NA NA NA
New Jersey 1,750 642 100,000 36658 57
New Mexico 353 175 16,566 8207 47
New York 1,943 1146 NA NA NA
North Carolina 2,521 1949 120,584 93241 48
North Dakota 54 35 NA NA NA
Ohio 2,168 1402 125,000 80816 58
Oklahoma 1,200 1039 71,500 61931 60
Oregon 480 329 22,500 15405 47
Pennsylvania 1,679 1233 82,764 60767 49
Rhode Island 90 87 4,000 3886 44
South Carolina 1,241 812 NA NA NA
South Dakota 80 53 3,848 2565 48
Tennessee 1,389 796 86,928 49807 63
Texas 6,996 5283 500,173 377695 71
Utah 160 126 13,000 10203 81
Vermont 321 190 5,452 3225 17
Virginia 741 578 NA NA NA
Washington 808 609 NA NA NA
West Virginia 150 125 3,429 2864 23
Wisconsin 1,170 768 NA NA NA
Wyoming 160 42 6,452 1710 40
TOTAL 61926 39293 2472296 1609555 48
COUNT 51 51 51 35 35
*NOTE: 1984 Number of centers for Alaska estimated using 1976 data.
TABLE A.2. 1976
State Number of Centers on State Licensing List Est. Number of Centers Estimated Accuracy of Lists Total Center Capacity Total Center Enroll. Average Center Capacity
Alabama 647 489 0.75 29,384 27,255 60
Alaska 49 29 0.59 1,185 1,008 41
Arizona 329 209 0.64 13,378 12,106 64
Arkansas 482 277 0.57 13,628 11,441 49
California 4,064 1,981 0.49 111,547 113,775 56
Colorado 423 206 0.49 11,161 11,306 54
Connecticut 232 205 0.88 7,800 7,365 38
Delaware 101 82 0.81 4,209 3,441 51
Dist. of Col. 239 154 0.64 7,933 6,315 52
Florida 1,563 1,073 0.69 65,774 49,012 61
Georgia 1,322 992 0.75 50,845 38,047 51
Hawaii 191 150 0.79 9,668 8,613 64
Idaho 123 55 0.45 2,627 2,209 48
Illinois 1,576 823 0.52 42,897 41,039 52
Indiana 272 223 0.82 15,027 13,566 67
Iowa 266 174 0.65 6,653 3,542 38
Kansas 168 62 0.37 2,752 2,728 44
Kentucky 433 276 0.64 12,514 9,384 45
Louisiana 590 459 0.78 20,595 16,208 45
Maine 81 46 0.57 2,418 2,076 53
Maryland 439 350 0.80 15,654 13,449 45
Massachusetts 809 324 0.40 14,291 13,753 44
Michigan 864 358 0.41 21,169 20,085 59
Minnesota 314 195 0.62 8,282 8,056 42
Mississippi 818 511 0.62 35,551 31,284 70
Missouri 366 333 0.91 18,317 17,034 55
Montana 50 36 0.72 1,745 1,739 48
Nebraska 329 107 0.33 5,420 4,354 51
Nevada 101 74 0.73 3,936 4,222 53
New Hampshire 99 65 0.66 3,414 2,980 53
New Jersey 1,143 419 0.37 23,482 22,068 56
New Mexico 327 162 0.50 7,277 6,729 45
New York 1,406 829 0.59 49,422 50,766 60
North Carolina 1,495 1,156 0.77 59,231 50,678 51
North Dakota 43 28 0.65 1,238 985 44
Ohio 778 503 0.65 32,227 27,666 64
Oklahoma 538 466 0.87 26,795 22,200 58
Oregon 352 241 0.68 10,762 9,515 45
Pennsylvania 602 442 0.73 18,661 18,788 42
Rhode Island 35 34 0.97 1,947 1,971 57
South Carolina 575 376 0.65 20,045 16,853 53
South Dakota 45 30 0.67 1,200 1,003 40
Tennessee 925 530 0.57 26,879 20,163 51
Texas 2,340 1,767 0.76 112,641 100,045 64
Utah 79 62 0.78 3,623 3,405 58
Vermont 71 42 0.59 1,517 1,487 36
Virginia 391 305 0.78 22,643 15,592 74
Washington 369 278 0.75 12,808 14,534 46
West Virginia 85 71 0.84 2,544 2,194 36
Wisconsin 346 227 0.66 10,771 9,197 47
Wyoming 83 22 0.27 1,418 1,278 64
TOTAL 29368 18307 NA 1006905 894509 52
COUNT 51 51 51 51 51 51
TABLE A.3. 1984 vs 1976
State 1984 Licensed Centers Adjusted-1976 List Accuracy 1976 Licensed Centers Adjusted-1976 List Accuracy 1984 Total Center Capacity Adjusted 1976 Total Center Capacity Adjusted 1984 Average Center Capacity 1976 Average Center Capacity
Alabama 693 488 30170 29384 44 60
Alaska 44 29 0 0 0 0
Arizona 471 209 34939 13378 74 64
Arkansas 431 277 13419 13628 31 49
California 3392 1,981 169648 111547 50 56
Colorado 414 206 21934 11161 53 54
Connecticut 983 205 41490 7800 42 38
Delaware 112 82 0 0 0 0
Dist. of Col. 193 154 9307 7933 48 52
Florida 2642 1,073 182609 65774 69 61
Georgia 1407 992 0 0 0 0
Hawaii 283 150 15130 9668 54 64
Idaho 376 55 0 0 0 0
Illinois 1230 823 58693 42897 48 52
Indiana 432 223 29885 15027 69 67
Iowa 729 174 22104 6653 30 38
Kansas 354 62 0 0 0 0
Kentucky 653 276 20023 12514 31 45
Louisiana 1556 459 0 0 0 0
Maine 99 46 3848 2418 39 53
Maryland 664 350 27931 15654 42 45
Massachusetts 703 324 25321 14291 36 44
Michigan 1028 358 0 0 0 0
Minnesota 646 195 22795 8282 35 42
Mississippi 709 511 33873 35551 48 70
Missouri 637 333 34574 18317 54 55
Montana 90 36 2880 1745 32 48
Nebraska 83 107 0 0 0 0
Nevada 166 74 0 0 0 0
New Hampshire 657 65 0 0 0 0
New Jersey 642 419 36658 23482 57 56
New Mexico 175 162 8207 7277 47 45
New York 1146 829 0 0 0 0
North Carolina 1949 1,156 93241 59231 48 51
North Dakota 35 28 0 0 0 0
Ohio 1402 503 80816 32227 58 64
Oklahoma 1039 466 61931 26795 60 58
Oregon 329 241 15405 10762 47 45
Pennsylvania 1233 442 60767 18661 49 42
Rhode Island 87 34 3886 1947 44 57
South Carolina 812 376 0 0 0 0
South Dakota 53 30 2565 1200 48 40
Tennessee 796 530 49807 26879 63 51
Texas 5283 1,767 377695 112641 71 64
Utah 126 62 10203 3623 81 58
Vermont 190 42 3225 1517 17 36
Virginia 578 305 0 0 0 0
Washington 609 278 0 0 0 0
West Virginia 125 71 2864 2544 23 36
Wisconsin 768 227 0 0 0 0
Wyoming 42 22 1710 1418 40 64
TOTAL 39293 18307 1609555. 773826    
COUNT 51 51 35 35 35 35
AVERAGE         48.1 52.2
TABLE A.4. 1984 Adjusted and 1984 vs 1976
State 1984 Capacity- Missing States Est. Using (A) 1984 Ave. 1984 Capacity- Missing States Est. Using (B) 1976 Ave. 1984 Capacity Adjusted for (A) & Lic. List Accuracy 1984 Capacity Adjusted for (B) & Lic. List Accuracy 1976 Capacity Adjusted for Lic. List Accuracy
Alabama 0 0 30170 30170 29,384
Alaska (est.) 3600 3065 2131 1814 1,185
Arizona 0 0 34939 34939 13,378
Arkansas 0 0 13419 13419 13,628
California 0 0 169648 169648 111,547
Colorado 0 0 21934 21934 11,161
Connecticut 0 0 41490 41490 7,800
Delaware 6624 7083 5378 5751 4,209
Dist. of Col. 0 0 9307 9307 7,933
Florida 0 0 182609 182609 65,774
Georgia 90000 96103 67534 72114 50,845
Hawaii 0 0 15130 15130 9,668
Idaho 40320 40121 18029 17940 2,627
Illinois 0 0 58693 58693 42,897
Indiana 0 0 29885 29885 15,027
Iowa 0 0 22104 22104 6,653
Kansas 45984 42523 16970 15693 2,752
Kentucky 0 0 20023 20023 12,514
Louisiana 96000 89739 74685 69814 20,595
Maine 0 0 3848 3848 2,418
Maryland 0 0 27931 27931 15,654
Massachusetts 0 0 25321 25321 14,291
Michigan 119040 146646 49324 60763 21,169
Minnesota 0 0 22795 22795 8,282
Mississippi 0 0 33873 33873 35,551
Missouri 0 0 34574 34574 18,317
Montana 0 0 2880 2880 1,745
Nebraska 12288 12967 3996 4217 5,420
Nevada 10848 12021 7948 8807 3,936
New Hampshire 48000 52523 31515 34485 3,414
New Jersey 0 0 36658 36658 23,482
New Mexico 0 0 8207 8207 7,277
New York 93264 115835 54990 68298 49,422
North Carolina 0 0 93241 93241 59,231
North Dakota 2592 2388 1688 1555 1,238
Ohio 0 0 80816 80816 32,227
Oklahoma 0 0 61931 61931 26,795
Oregon 0 0 15405 15405 10,762
Pennsylvania 0 0 60767 60767 18,661
Rhode Island 0 0 3886 3886 1,947
South Carolina 59568 66159 38952 43262 20,045
South Dakota 0 0 2565 2565 1,200
Tennessee 0 0 49807 49807 26,879
Texas 0 0 377695 377695 112,641
Utah 0 0 10203 10203 3,623
Vermont 0 0 3225 3225 1,517
Virginia 35568 55011 27745 42912 22,643
Washington 38784 37226 29219 28046 12,808
West Virginia 0 0 2864 2864 2,544
Wisconsin 56160 55516 36845 36422 10,771
Wyoming 0 0 1710 1710 1,418
TOTAL 758640 834926 2076505.5 2121447. 1006905
COUNT 16 16 51 51 51
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