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Room to Grow: Examining Participation and Stability in Child Care Subsidies Using State Administrative Data

Taryn W. Morrissey, Colleen M. Heflin, W. Clay Fannin

Early Childhood Research Quarterly, September 2022

Colleen Heflin

Colleen Heflin

Clay Fannin headshot

William Clay Fannin

Child care subsidies help low-income families purchase child care, but the field lacks recent and longitudinal studies of patterns of participation.

This study uses longitudinal administrative data from the Commonwealth of Virginia to: 1) examine subsidy program participation and duration in 2019 (N = 29,122); and 2) examine participation in public assistance programs including subsides among a cohort of children born in 2015 (N = 6,267).

Findings indicate that, in general, few eligible children in Virginia benefit from child care subsidies before they enter kindergarten, and spells of participation in the subsidy program are brief. Results suggest that participation and stability vary by children's sex, race, ethnicity, and geography, with males, non-Hispanic white children, and those in rural areas experiencing higher levels of stability than their counterparts.

Findings highlight the importance of additional investment in child care subsidies to reach eligible families and to support stable child care arrangements, key to children's development and parental employment.