Estimates of Child Care Eligibility and Receipt for Fiscal Year 2011. Children Eligible for Child Care Subsidies


An estimated 14.3 million children were potentially eligible for child care assistance under the federal eligibility parameters of CCDF in an average month in 2011 (see Table 1).2 Federal eligibility parameters include:

  • Children must be under age 13 (unless the child has special needs and is age 13-18);
  • The income of the child’s family must be less than 85 percent of the state median income for a family of the same size;3 and
  • The child’s parents must be working or participating in education or training activities.4

Figure 1 shows estimates of the number of federally-eligible children by age and poverty status. At age 0, approximately 1.0 million children are eligible; at ages 1 and 2, approximately 2.0 million children are eligible; at ages 3 and 4, approximately 2.3 million children are eligible; and at age 5, approximately 1.2 million children are eligible.

Figure 1: Number of Children Potentially Eligible Under Federal Parameters, by Age and Poverty Status, Average Monthly, 2011 (1,000s)


2 The estimates of eligibility were produced using the Transfer Income Model (TRIM), a micro-simulation model developed and maintained by the Urban Institute under contract with ASPE. TRIM converts annual data from the Annual Social and Economic Supplement of the Current Population Survey (CPS-ASEC) into monthly data, compares these monthly data on family income and work status to CCDF rules, and generates monthly estimates of children and families eligible for CCDF child care subsidies. Monthly estimates are averaged to produce an average monthly estimate for the year. The 2011 estimate of eligibility relies upon data from the CPS for calendar year 2011, federally-permitted eligibility rules under CCDF, and state-defined eligibility rules reported in ACF’s CCDF Policies Database as of October 2011. For purposes of these estimates the definition of the assistance unit is based on the subfamily, as defined by the Census Bureau, and family members outside of the subfamily unit are not included in the benefit determination formulas.

3 States are given broad flexibility in deciding what family income is countable for purposes of determining a child’s eligibility. For example, states could disregard TANF payments in income eligibility determinations. States could also exclude income from some adult family members (e.g., an adult sibling or an aunt). As a result, some states may serve children in families with unadjusted incomes greater than 85 percent of the state median income, as defined in this issue brief. In FY 2011, the mean value of the federal maximums (i.e., 85% state median income) for three person families was $4,453 per month ($53,437 annually). However, the average initial eligibility limit before applying disregards for the states was $2,846 monthly ($34,156 annually) as of October 2011. State median income is based on estimates published for fiscal year 2011 in the Federal Register: May 12, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 91).

4 For this eligibility estimate “working” includes all work of one hour or more in a month. The majority (84 percent) of federally-eligible children come from families where the single parent or both parents were employed at least 20 hours per week. An estimated 8 percent of federally-eligible children lived with a parent who was employed between 1 and 19 hours per week. An estimated 8 percent of federally-eligible children lived with a parent that was not working but was in school. Families who are eligible because of participation in TANF-approved work-related activities (e.g., job search) are not included in the eligibility estimate based on federal rules or the eligibility estimate based on state rules).

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