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America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2013

Child Care

Many children spend time with a child care provider other than their parents. Two important measures of early childhood child care usage are a historical trend of the primary child care provider used by employed mothers for their young children and, from a different data source, overall use of different providers regardless of parents' work status.18

Indicator Fam3.A: Primary child care arrangements for children ages 0–4 with employed mothers, selected years 1985–201119
Primary child care arrangements for children ages 0–4 with employed mothers, selected years 1985–2011

NOTE: The primary arrangement is the arrangement used for the most number of hours per week while the mother worked. Mother and father care both refer to care while the mother worked.

SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau, Survey of Income and Program Participation.

  • In 2011, 49 percent of children ages 0–4 with employed mothers were primarily cared for by a relative—their father, grandparent, sibling, other relative, or mother— while she worked. This is not statistically different from the percentages in 2010 and 2005. Twenty-four percent spent the most amount of time in a center-based arrangement (day care, nursery school, preschool, or Head Start). Thirteen percent were primarily cared for by a nonrelative in a home-based environment, such as care from a family day care provider, nanny, babysitter, or au pair.
  • The rate of care by fathers was between 15 and 16 percent in 1985 and 1988, increased to 20 percent in 1991, and settled between 16 and 18 percent from 1993 to 2005. By 2011, the father-care rate was 19 percent.
  • Among children in families in poverty in 2011, 18 percent were in center-based care as their primary arrangement, while 11 percent were with other relatives (relatives other than the mother, father, or grandparent). By comparison, more children in families at or above the poverty line were in center-based care (26 percent) than were cared for by other relatives (4 percent).

School-age children may spend their weekday, nonschool time in child care arrangements, and also may engage in a variety of enrichment activities such as sports, arts, clubs, academic activities, religious activities, and community service. In addition, some children care for themselves without adult supervision for some time during the week.

Indicator Fam3.B: Percentage of children ages 3–6, not yet in kindergarten, in center-based care arrangements by poverty level, selected years 1995–2007
Percentage of children ages 3–6, not yet in kindergarten, in center-based care arrangements by poverty level, selected years 1995–2007

NOTE: Center-based programs included day care centers, prekindergartens, nursery schools, Head Start programs, and other early childhood education programs.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Household Education Surveys Program.

  • In 2007, about 55 percent of children ages 3–6, not yet in kindergarten, were enrolled in center-based care. This percentage was about the same as in 1995. A higher percentage of children ages 3–6, not yet in kindergarten, whose families had incomes at least twice the poverty level (65 percent) were enrolled in center-based care, compared with children from families with incomes 100–199 percent of the poverty level (45 percent) and children from families below 100 percent of the poverty level (41 percent).
  • The percentages of children ages 3–6, not yet in kindergarten, who were enrolled in center-based care differed by race/ethnicity. A lower percentage of Hispanic children (39 percent) than White, non-Hispanic (58 percent), Black, non-Hispanic (65 percent), and Asian (64 percent) children were enrolled in center-based care.
  • A higher percentage of children whose mothers had a bachelor's degree or higher were enrolled in center-based arrangements (71 percent), compared with children whose mothers had less than a high school diploma (29 percent), a high school diploma or its equivalent (43 percent), or some college (54 percent).

Indicator Fam3.C: Child care arrangements for grade school children ages 5–14 with employed mothers, 2011
Child care arrangements for grade school children ages 5–14 with employed mothers, 2011

NOTE: The number of children in all arrangements may exceed the total number of children due to the use of multiple arrangements. Mother and father care refer to care while the mother worked.

SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau, Survey of Income and Program Participation.

  • In 2011, grade school children ages 5–14 with employed mothers were less likely to be in center-based or other nonrelative care and more likely to be cared for by relatives.
  • As children grow and mature, many parents allow them to spend some time in unsupervised situations. In 2011, older children were more likely to care for themselves than their younger counterparts: 2 percent of children ages 5–8, about 10 percent of children ages 9–11, and 33 percent of children ages 12–14 were regularly in self-care situations.

table icon FAM3.A HTML TableFAM3.B HTML TableFAM3.C HTML Table

18 To provide a comprehensive picture of the child care arrangements parents use to care for their preschoolers, this indicator draws on the strengths of two different Federal data sets—the National Household Education Surveys Program (NHES) and the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP). Using NHES (FAM3.B) data, the percentage of children in each type of arrangement is shown, to provide total usage rates. Because some children are cared for by more than one type of provider, the numerator is the number of children in the particular arrangement and the denominator is all children. Using SIPP (FAM3.A) data, the historical trend of the primary child care provider is shown because there is an interest in the care arrangement that is used by employed mothers for the greatest number of hours each week. In this case, the numerator is the number of children of employed mothers who spend the greatest number of hours in the particular arrangement each week, and the denominator is all children of employed mothers.

19 Center-based care includes day care centers, nursery schools, preschools, and Head Start programs. Home-based care or other nonrelative care includes family day care providers, babysitters, nannies, friends, neighbors, and other nonrelatives providing care in either the child's or provider's home. Other relatives include siblings and other relatives. Mother care includes care by the mother while she worked. To see trends in individual child care arrangement types, refer to Laughlin, L. (2010). Who's minding the kids? Child care arrangements: Spring 2005/Summer 2006. Current Population Reports, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC, 70–121.