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Child care subsidies: Who uses them and what do they buy low-income families and children?

This dissertation examines the predictors and consequences of child care subsidy receipt. Following an introductory chapter that provides the background and context for the rest of the dissertation, the three subsequent chapters represent three separate empirical papers. The final chapter summarizes findings from across the three studies. The first paper following the introductory chapter explores predictors of child care subsidy receipt. After reducing the sample to families who are likely-eligible for subsidies, subsidy recipients appear more advantaged than their eligible non-recipient counterparts. Findings suggest that the low take-up of subsidies by eligible families may be partially explained by the fact that more disadvantaged families experience the most trouble navigating the child care subsidy system. The second paper estimates the effect of child care subsidy receipt on the quality of care that low-income, subsidy-eligible children experience. Results from OLS regression models and propensity score matching analyses suggest that subsidy receipt leads parents to purchase higher quality care for their children, but only in comparison to the care used by families who use no other form of publicly-funded care. Compared to families who use Head Start or public pre-kindergarten, two programs designed to support child development by providing higher quality care, subsidy receipt leads to care that is lower in quality. The third paper examines associations between subsidy receipt in preschool and children's school readiness skills in kindergarten. The results of OLS regression models with lagged dependent variables suggest that subsidy receipt in preschool is not related to kindergarten school readiness outcomes. Given that the subsidy program was designed primarily to support parental employment rather than child development, this is not surprising. Thus, if these findings are replicated in future studies, this should not be viewed as a failure of the subsidy program. (author abstract)
Resource Type:
Reports & Papers
United States

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