Although the research described in the previous section provides valuable insights into the non-parental child care arrangements of rural children, there is a need for additional analysis. One reason for additional analyses is that two of the most thorough national data collection efforts focusing on child care were conducted over 15 years ago: the National Child Care Survey (Hofferth et al., 1990) and the Profile of Child Care Settings (Kisker et al., 1990). It is unclear whether the urban and rural differences shown in these studies are still representative of rural and urban areas because their data were collected before federal spending on child care subsidies increased significantly throughout the 1990s and before the passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, welfare reform legislation that facilitated the transition of many single low-income mothers into the labor force (Besharov & Higney, 2006; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2007).
A second reason to invite additional research on rural child care is that findings sometimes vary across different data collection efforts because they use dissimilar survey methodologies (Besharov, Morrow, & Fengyan, 2006) or classify urban and rural areas differently. This paper increases our understanding of how child care arrangements in rural areas compare to those in urban areas of the United States by examining data from the 2005 National Household Education Survey (NHES), Early Childhood Program Participation Survey (ECPP). Since some of the research findings discussed in the previous section do not show consistent patterns across different studies and data sources, this paper hopes to provide additional information that can provide new results to this discussion and clarify which results appear to be consistent across multiple studies. It will also introduce some new topics not previously examined such as the physical locations of center programs.