Child Care Subsidy Duration and Caseload Dynamics: A Multi-State Examination. Definition of Child Care Subsidy Duration


This report defines duration periods, also called spells, as the number of continuous months that families9 receive child care subsidies, preceded and followed by a month of non-receipt.10 All months of subsidy receipt are included in the spells regardless of the number of hours of participation. Spells began the months when families started using subsidies for either the first time or after at least a one-month break of non-use. Spells are considered completed when there is at least one month that the families do not receive subsidies. In some places in this report the definition is altered slightly to require that new spells are preceded and followed by at least two months of non-receipt. The durations presented in this paper are statistical spells, which may differ from the methodologies that individual state administrators use to define program entries, exits, and lengths of participation. In some cases participants return to the subsidy system after they exit. In order to contrast families that have and have not experienced recent spells of participation the report restricts the analysis in some places to families that are either new to the subsidy system or are returning after a 36-month absence from the programs. In order to present statistics that measure subsidy duration across several individual spells of participation, the report presents in some places the total number of months that families received child care subsidies over a three-year period, regardless of whether the months of receipt were continuous.

9 This study used families as units of analysis, which differs from some other studies that used children as units of analysis.

10 Using months as units of measurement exaggerates somewhat the amount of time that some families receive child care subsidies if they begin subsidy participation during the middle or end of a month, or if they end subsidy use at the beginning or middle of a month. For example, if a family began receiving subsidies on August 15th and ended subsidy use on November 14th, the duration would be measured as four months even though the duration was 13 weeks, which is closer to three months after dividing the 13 weeks by 4.3 weeks/month.

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