Trends in the Well-Being of America's Children and Youth, 1997. ES 3.5 Child care

04/01/1997

The child care needs of American families have been increasing over the past several decades as mothers have moved into the labor force in ever greater numbers. Child care that is reliable and of high quality is especially important for infants and preschoolers because they are dependent on caregivers for their basic needs and safety. Yet the quality of care varies substantially in the United States.25 Research has clearly demonstrated that child care quality can have substantial impacts on the development of a young child's personality, cognitive skills, social skills, and well-being.

Child Care Centers and Preschools. As shown in Table ES.3.5.A, working mothers with preschool children have increasingly chosen care provided in day care centers and preschools. In 1965, only 8 percent of mothers working full time chose day care centers and preschools for child care. By 1993, 34 percent did so. Similarly, for children whose mothers worked part time, use of child care centers and preschools increased from 3 percent in 1965 to 23 percent in 1993.

Child Care in a Non-Relative's Home. For children of full-time working mothers, care in a non-relative's home peaked at 27 percent in the mid-1980s, then declined to 18 percent by 1993. Similarly, for children whose mothers worked part time, care in a non-relative's home peaked at 19 percent in 1982 and has since declined to 14 percent.

Care by Fathers and Other Relatives. The fraction of children of full-time working mothers cared for by fathers or other relatives in the child's home was 28 percent in 1993 exactly the same as in 1965. The fraction of children of part-time working mothers cared for by fathers or other relatives in the child's home was 38 percent in 1993 about the same as in 1977 and slightly higher than in 1965.

Child Care Arrangements by Various Child and Family Characteristics. Table ES.3.5.B presents 1993 estimates of the distribution of child care types used by all working mothers (regardless of hours worked) by child's race/ethnicity, age, mother's marital status and educational attainment, poverty status, monthly income, and AFDC program participation status. The information in this table indicates the following:

  • Prior to age 3, the most common arrangement for child care is in another home by either a relative or non-relative. Forty percent for children under age one and 37 percent of children ages 1-2 whose mothers are employed are in this kind of care arrangement.
  • For children ages 3-4 whose mothers are employed, the most common arrangement for care is child care centers and preschools. Thirty-nine percent of children are in this care arrangement. Twenty-four percent are cared for by a relative or non-relative in another home. Hispanic families, however, are much less likely than white and black non-Hispanics to use day care centers and preschools.
  • Children with mothers of higher socioeconomic status are the most likely to be receiving care from a day care center or preschool. For example, 20 percent of poor children under age 5 receive care from such sources, compared to 31 percent of non-poor children. Only 20 percent of children whose mothers have less than a high school diploma receive care from a day care center or preschool, compared to 36 percent of children whose mothers have a college degree. In contrast, 52 percent of children of poor mothers are cared for by relatives compared with only 40 percent of children of non-poor mothers, and 54 percent of children of mothers without a high school diploma are cared for by relatives compared with only 31 percent of children of mothers with a college degree.
  • Children whose families participate in the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program appear somewhat less likely than other children to attend day care centers or preschools (26 percent for participants versus 30 percent for nonparticipants). They are also less likely to be cared for by their fathers (5 percent for participants versus 16 percent for nonparticipants). However, 40 percent of children in AFDC families are cared for by other relatives compared with only 24 percent for children whose families do not participate in AFDC.

 

Table ES 3.5.A 
Percentage of Children Under Age Five with Employed Mothers in Differing Child Care Arrangements, by Employment Status, 1965-1993

 
 
1965a,b 
1977b 
1982b 
1984-85 
1988 
1991 
1993 
Mother Employed Full - Time
Day care center or preschool
15 
20 
30 
31 
28 
34 
Non-relative care in provider's home
20 
27 
25 
27 
27 
21 
18 
Grandparent/other relative in relative's home
18 
21 
21 
16 
14 
14 
17 
Father in child's home
10 
11 
11 
10 
15 
11 
Other care in child's home
37 
18 
16 
13 
13 
15 
15 
Other care outside child's homec
 
Mother Employed Part - Time
Day care center or preschool
17 
17 
15 
23 
Non-relative care in provider's home
16 
19 
14 
17 
13 
14 
Grandparent/other relative in relative's home
13 
16 
16 
11 
11 
13 
Father in child's home
23 
23 
21 
22 
27 
29 
25 
Other care in child's home
24 
20 
20 
18 
14 
17 
15 
Other care outside child's homec
33 
19 
26 
13 
14 
15 
10 
 
 
Notes: aData for 1965 are for children under 6 years old.  
bData for 1982 and earlier are based on survey questions that asked about care arrangements for youngest child in the family. Percentages for 1982 and earlier have been recalculated after removal of cases in "don't know" category.  
cIncludes children who are cared for by their mother at work, or in kindergarten or school-based activities.
Source: U. S. Bureau of the Census, Current Population Reports, Series P-70, No. 9, P-70, No. 30, and P-70, No. 36, Who's Minding the Kids? Child Care Arrangements: Winter 1984-1985, 1988 and 1991, 1987, Table 3; 1992, Table 1; and 1994, Table 1; Series P-23, No. 117, Trends in Child Care Arrangements of Working Mothers, Table A; and Series P-70, No. 53, Who's Minding Our Preschoolers?, Table 1: U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.

 

Table ES 3.5.B 
Percentage of Children Under Age Five with Employed Mothers in Differing Child Care Arrangements, by Selected Characteristics, 1993

 
Day care centera 
Father in child's home 
Other Relative in child's home 
Non- relative in child's home 
Relative in another home 
Non- relative in another home 
Mother cares for childb 
Other care Arrange- mentsc 
 
______ 
_______ 
_______ 
_______ 
______ 
_______ 
_______ 
_______ 
All preschoolers
30 
16 
10 
5 
15 
17 
6 
1 
Race/ethnicity
  White, not Hispanic
31 
17 
14 
18 
  Black, not Hispanic
33 
18 
21 
14 
  Hispanicd
21 
15 
16 
23 
13 
  Other  
24 
18 
18 
13 
13 
 
Age of child
  Less than 1 year
19 
17 
10 
18 
22 
  1-2 years
24 
17 
11 
18 
19 
  3-4 years
39 
14 
12 
12 
 
Marital status
  Married, husband present
30 
19 
14 
16 
  All other marital statusese
29 
20 
20 
17 
 
Educational attainment
  Less than high school
20 
17 
20 
17 
15 
  High school, 4 years
27 
17 
11 
20 
16 
  College, 1-3 years
32 
16 
15 
16 
  College, 4 or more years
36 
14 
10 
19 
 
Poverty levelf
  At or below poverty
20 
16 
14 
7 
22 
12 
8 
1 
  Above poverty
31 
16 
9 
5 
15 
17 
6 
1 
 
Monthly family incomef
  Less than $1,200
20 
16 
11 
23 
15 
  $1,200 to $2,999
26 
20 
19 
15 
  $3,000 to $4,499
29 
18 
10 
14 
19 
  $4,500 and over
39 
10 
10 
11 
17 
 
Program Participation
  AFDC recipient
26 
18 
22 
16 
  AFDC nonrecipient
30 
16 
15 
17 
 
aIncludes day care centers, nursery schools, and pre-schools.     dPersons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.
bIncludes mothers working at home or away from home. eIncludes widowed, separated, divorced, and never married.
cIncludes preschoolers in kindergarten and school-based activities. fOmits preschoolers whose families did not report income.
Source: U.S. Bureau of the Census, Current Population Reports, Series P-70, No. 53, Who's Minding Our Preschoolers? Table 2.

 

25 Whitebook, M., Phillips, D., and Howes, C. 1989. National Child Care Staffing Study. Oakland, CA: Child Care Employees Project; and Hayes, C.D., Palmer, J.L., and Zaslow, M.J. (Eds.). 1990. Who Cares for America's Children? Child Care Policy for the 1990s. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
 

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