Family and individual predictors of child care use by low-income families in different policy contexts

Aletha C. Huston, Young Eun Chang, Lisa Gennetian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We examine family and individual characteristics that predict low-income parents' child care use, problems with child care, and receipt of public subsidies using data from three demonstration studies testing policies to promote employment for low-income parents (primarily single mothers). The characteristics that mattered most, particularly for use of center-based care were family structure (ages and number of children), parents' education, and personal beliefs about family and work. The effects of race and ethnicity were inconsistent suggesting that generalizations about ethnic differences in child care preferences should be viewed with caution. There was little support for the proposition that many low-income parents do not need child care assistance because they use relative care. Child care subsidies and other policies designed to reduce the cost of care and to increase parents' employment appeared to meet the needs associated with caring for very young children and for large families and were most effective in reaching parents with relatively less consistent prior employment experience. Parents whose education and personal beliefs were consistent with a preference for center-based care were most likely to take advantage of the opportunity to choose that option and to use subsidies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)441-469
Number of pages29
JournalEarly Childhood Research Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2002


  • Child-care selection
  • Low-income families
  • Parents

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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