The amount of time that families receive child care subsidies can be presented in different ways. One possibility is with a Kaplan-Meier survival curve, like that shown in Figure 4. The x-axis in the figure represents the number of consecutive months that families received child care subsidies and the y-axis signifies the percentage of the caseload that “survived” to the corresponding month in the x-axis.14 For example, slightly less than half (47 percent) of families received subsidies for six or more months, and about 25 percent participated for at least 12 months before experiencing at least one month without receipt.15 Uninterrupted subsidy participation for at least two years was somewhat uncommon; these spells represented about 11 percent of the families that began subsidy use in FY 2007 (i.e., between October 2006 and September 2007). About six percent of families received child care subsidies for at least 36 consecutive months.
Figure 4. Kaplan-Meier Survival Curve: The Percentage of Families in the 35 States that Received Child Care Subsidies to Particular Lengths of Time without Experiencing at Least One-Month of Non-Receipt (FY 2007)
Another way to analyze length of subsidy receipt is to examine the percentage of families that experienced spell durations of various lengths. This is shown in Figure 5 for families that began spells of subsidy use in Fiscal Year 2007 for either their first time or after at least 36 months of non-receipt. When the families from the 35 states are analyzed together, about 21 percent of them completed spells in one or two months, and another 25 percent completed spells in three to five months. About 29 percent of families had spell lengths of 12 months or greater.
One of the most common methods of analyzing subsidy durations is with medians. Figure 6 presents the median spell lengths of families in the 35 states that began new spells of participation for either their first time or after at least one month on non-receipt. The time period is restricted to families beginning new spells between January 2004 and August 2009. The data from the 35 states presented in the figure reveal that median spell lengths have seasonal patterns that generally fluctuate between four and seven months.16 Families that began subsidy usage in the months of August to January had higher medians spell lengths than families beginning program use during other months of the year. In general, median spell durations were particularly low when they began in June compared to the spell durations that began in the late summer and early fall months.
Figure 5. Number of Continuous Months that Families Received Child Care Subsidies before Leaving the Subsidy Program or Experiencing at Least One Month of Non-Receipt (Percentages of All Families Entering the Programs in FY 2007)
Percentages of All Families Entering the Programs in FY 2007
All 35 states
|1 to 2 Months||21%|
|3 to 5 Months||25%|
|6 to 11 Months||26%|
|12 to 23 Months||17%|
Figure 6. Median Consecutive Months that Families in the 35 States Received Child Care Subsidies without Exiting the Subsidy System or Experiencing at Least One Month of Non-Receipt by Month of Entry (January 2004 to August 2009)
Table 3 presents spell medians by state for Fiscal Years 2004 through 2009. Care should be used when making comparisons across years and between states with the data in this table. The data for the months of November and December in Fiscal Year 2004 are not included in the calculations and their exclusion could distort the medians displayed for this year to some degree. In addition, as stressed earlier, states sometimes change which non-CCDF families they include in their ACF-801 data submissions, which may result in changes solely attributed to varying reporting patterns that were not related to actual changes in the caseloads themselves. In addition, any analysis of individual states should take into account various environmental, political, and economic factors. For example, Hurricane Katrina may have had an impact on Louisiana’s median spell durations in late Fiscal Year 2005 and the early part of Fiscal Year 2006.
Of the 35 states in Fiscal Year 2009, 31 had median spell durations between 4 and 8 continuous months. Nevada (3 months) was a low outlier and Tennessee (9 months), Kentucky (10 months), and the District of Columbia (13 months) were upper outliers that year. The median spell durations shown in Table 3 for the combined 35 states reveal that median aggregate child care subsidy durations remained fairly consistent between FY 2005 and FY 2009; the medians remained at six for all of those years. However, changes in median spell durations were somewhat more pronounced for individual states. Of the 35 states, 13 had the same medians in Fiscal Year 2009 as they had in Fiscal Year 2005. In the remaining states, 20 of them had median spells that were at least one month higher In Fiscal Year 2009 than in Fiscal Year 2005. Among the most notable changes was the state of Kentucky, which had a median spell length of six in Fiscal Years 2006 and 2007, a median spell length of eight in Fiscal Year 2008, and a median spell length of 10 in Fiscal Year 2009. Two states had decreases in their median spell durations during this time period; South Carolina had a median spell duration that was one month lower and Rhode Island had a median spell duration that was two months lower in Fiscal Year 2009 than in Fiscal Year 2005.
Table 3. Median Number of Continuous Months that Families Received Child Care Subsidies before Exiting the Subsidy System for at Least One Month (Fiscal Years 2004 through 2009)
|State||FY 2004||FY 2005||FY 2006||FY 2007||FY 2008||FY 2009|
|All 35 States||5||6||6||6||6||6|
|District of Columbia||14||12||12||13||13||13|
Note: In order to avoid problems associated with left-censoring the medians for spells that began in October 2004 through December 2004 are excluded. In order to avoid problems with right-censoring the medians for the months of July, August, and September are excluded for the District of Columbia in FY 2009. The families in this figure were either entering the subsidy system for the first time, or entering after at least one month of non-receipt.
Table 4. Median Spell Durations of Families by Age of Youngest Child and State
|State||Age 0||Age 1||Age 2||Age 3||Age 4||Age 5||Ages 6 to 8||Ages 9 to 12|
|All 35 States||7||6||7||6||6||5||4||4|
|District of Columbia||15||14||13||13||9||7||9||9|
Note: The families in this figure were either entering the subsidy system in Fiscal Year 2007 for the first time, or were entering after at least one month of non-receipt.
14 The data in this figure are restricted to families beginning new spells of participation in Fiscal Year 2007 for either their first time or after at least a 36-month absence from child care receipt.
15 The data to compute Kaplan-Meier survival curves for individual states can be found in Appendix Table 2.
16 The data for the individual states can be found in Appendix Table 3.