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Home > Practice Areas > Child Care and Development > Facts and Figures


Child Care and Development: Facts and Figures

America is changing. More and more women are entering the labor force, there are more single parent families, and more couples are choosing to live together outside of wedlock. All of these changes have direct and indirect effects on children.

One direct consequence of these trends is the increasing need for quality, accessible child care--a need that is not being met. The child care industry is not catching up to the growing demands of today's economy, nor are most programs equipped with the knowledge that research in the child care and development field has yielded.

Following are data concerning labor, family, and child care trends in America.

America is changing, and the demand for child care is increasing.
  • Approximately 21 million infants, toddlers, and preschool children under age 6 live in the United States. 1 More than half of these children are in child care. 2

  • Approximately 80% of children age 5 and younger with employed mothers are in a child care arrangement for an average of almost 40 hours a week with someone other than a parent; 63% of these children ages 6-14 spend an average of 21 hours per week in the care of someone other than a parent before and after school. 3

  • As many as 40% of 14-year-olds with working mothers care for themselves during nonschool hours. 4

  • Publicly funded early care and education programs, which are intended to provide developmentally beneficial nonparental care for young children, such as Head Start and Early Start, reach only about 40% of those who are eligible. 5

  • From 1970 to 2000, overall maternal labor force participation rates rose from 38% to 68%. For mothers with children, birth to age 3, employment rates more than doubled, from 24% to 58%. 6

  • More parents are working nontraditional hours. Only 29.1% of parents worked 35-40 hours a week, Monday-Friday, and during daytime hours. 7

  • Among mothers with children age 5 and younger, 65% are in the workforce. 8 Among mothers with children younger than 1, 59% are either working or looking for work. 9
Quality programs are already in shortage, especially for vulnerable families.
  • According to a Philadelphia study, 2 out of 10 centers provide good care; the rest range from poor to mediocre. Poor children are less likely to participate in quality care programs. 10

  • In most states, families with annual incomes of $25,000 do not qualify for assistance with child care expenses. 11

  • The shortage of government assistance funds to qualifying families is so great that at least one-third of states place eligible families on waiting lists. 12

  • The average percent of family income spent on child care is 7.5%. Families with annual incomes of $18,000 or less, however, tend to spend an average of 22.8% of their income on child care, whereas families with incomes of $54,000 or more tend to spend an average of 3.9%. 13
Poor conditions and low skill standards for child care workers are part of the problem.
  • Child care workers earn an average annual salary of $17,610, making it a high turnover industry where trained professionals cannot afford to stay. 14

  • In 30 states, prior training is not required for teaching in child care centers. 15
Children need quality care because it has long-term positive effects on emotional well-being and social adjustment.
  • This is especially true for children who grow up in environments with risk factors such as poverty and maternal depression. The longitudinal High/Scope Perry Preschool Study found that the high-risk participants in its quality intervention program were less likely to need special education throughout school, drop out of high school, and commit crimes, than was the control group. They also earned higher salaries at age 27 than did nonparticipants. 16

  • According to the Committee on Integrating the Science of Early Childhood Development:

    Young children whose caregivers provide ample verbal and cognitive stimulation, who are sensitive and responsive, and who give them generous amounts of attention and support are more advanced in all realms of development compared with children who fail to receive these important inputs. 17

  • Quality care also temporarily boosts children's cognitive functioning, setting them on a path toward achievement. 18
Child care has a sizeable influence on our economy, with tremendous potential for catalyzing economic growth if initial investments are made.
  • The child care industry generates approximately $9 billion in tax revenues. 19

  • Child care has been shown to help low-income parents leave welfare by finding steady positions. 20

  • The High/Scope Perry Preschool Study showed an eight-fold return on investment, much greater than the returns on most economic development projects. Other similar studies have calculated returns of up to seven-fold of the investment. 21

  • Economist Arthur Rolnick claims that joint public and private support of the child care industry has tremendous potential as economic development. In fact, child care has far more power than current economic development projects in place throughout the states. 22
  1. Federal Interagency Forum on Children and Family Statistics. (2005). America's Children: Key National Indicators of Children's Well-Being 2005. Figure POP1. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved online, August 25, 2005. back

  2. Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics (2004). America's Children: Key National Indicators of Children's Well-Being 2004. Summary List of Indicators. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved online, August 25, 2005. back

  3. Smolensky, E., & Gootman, J.A. (Eds.). (2003). Working Families and Growing Kids: Caring for Children and Adolescents. Washington, DC: Committee on Family and Work Policies, National Research Council, National Academies Press. back

  4. Ibid. back

  5. Ibid. back

  6. Ibid. back

  7. Ibid. back

  8. Bachu, A., & O'Connel, M. (2000). Fertility of American Women (Current Population Reports P20-526). Washington, DC: Census Bureau. back

  9. National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies. (2004). Child Care in America. Retrieved online, August 25, 2005. Washington, DC: Author. back

  10. Improving School Readiness Project. (2001). Early to Rise: Improving the School Readiness of Philadelphia's Young Children. Philadelphia: United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania and School District of Philadelphia. Retrieved online, August, 25, 2005. back

  11. Schulman, K., & Blank, H. (2004). Child Care Assistance Policies 2001-2004: Families Struggling to Move Forward, States Going Backward. Washington, DC: National Women's Law Center. Retrieved online, August, 25, 2005. back

  12. Ibid. back

  13. National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies. (2004). Child Care in America. Retrieved online, August 25, 2005. Washington, DC: Author. back

  14. U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2003). National employment and wage data from the Occupational Employment Statistics survey by occupation, May 2004. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor). Retrieved online, August 25, 2005. back

  15. Quality Counts 2002: Building Blocks for Success. (2002, January 10). Education Week, 21 (17). back

  16. National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. (2000). From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. back

  17. Ibid. back

  18. Ibid. back

  19. Cubed, M. (2002). The National Economic Impacts of the Child Care Sector. Conyers, GA: National Child Care Association. back

  20. Adams, G., & Rohacek, M. (2002). Child Care and Welfare Reform. WR&B Brief 14. Brookings Institution. Washington, DC. Retrieved online, August 25, 2005. back

  21. Bruner, C. (2004). Many Happy Returns: Three Economic Models that Make the Case for School Readiness. Des Moines: State Early Childhood Policy Technical Assistance Network. Retrieved online, August 25, 2005. back

  22. Rolnick, A.J., & Grunewald, R. (2005, June). Early Childhood Development on a Large Scale. The Region. Retrieved online, August 25, 2005. back

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