Relative care, in which a grandparent, older sibling, or other relative looks after the children while their parents are at work, is the most common child care arrangement for U.S. families. But about one-third of preschool-age children’s families opt for a nonrelative arrangement. Nearly one-quarter of preschoolers whose parents work outside the home are cared for in a formal care facility-including child care centers, preschools, or Head Start. A smaller percentage, about 1 in 10, engage in what is known as home-based care, or child care delivered in the provider’s personal home or the home of the individual child.
Each type of care offers unique benefits, as well as unique challenges, that families must weigh. Informal family care via family, a friend, or a neighbor may be more accessible and come with a lower price. This kind of informal arrangement iliar and trustworthy caregiver, ily’s language and culture, and ilies, including those who have children with disabilities or parents working nontraditional hours.
But in some cases, informal care also can be unstable, impose costs on the relative or friend caregiver, or offer fewer educational opportunities. Formal, nonrelative care may provide more consistent quality of care and socialization opportunities but at a higher price with less flexibility. A robust child care market should support a diverse set of child care options so families can find care that best meets their unique needs and preferences-without sacrificing affordability or quality.
Early care and education supports immediate U.S. economic growth
The economic story of the 20th century United States may be the expansion of women entering the U.S. labor market. While many women, particularly women of color and all single mothers, were in the labor force for centuries already, changing social norms and economic necessities around the Second World War prompted more married women to pursue careers outside of the home.
The bottom line: Addressing the child care crisis can improve families’ immediate economic security and well-being while accelerating U
The shifting demographics of the U.S. workforce helped heteronormative, two-parent families remain economically stable, with gains in women’s hours worked and hourly pay offsetting my explanation loses by male earners over the decades. 7 Women’s greater U.S. labor market participation also has been an economic necessity for single parents, mostly mothers, with whom roughly one-quarter of children live. 8
A modern economy benefits when more people engage in the workforce or receive education or training to obtain a better job. At the same time, the private early care and education market has failed to address the greatest challenge facing many families: how to care for children when parents go to work or school. This apparent deficiency in the private pering economic growth.
Indeed, following the explosive expansion of women in the workforce in the middle of the 20th century, labor force participation rates have stagnated in recent years. Economists and policymakers now suggest that insufficient child care and caregiving policies are preventing the United States from reaching its full economic potential. 9
Insufficient child care options can prevent parents who wish to engage in the workforce from doing so, regardless of gender, but it is women who often bear the brunt of this challenge. Research using time-diary data-where participants record the number of minutes they spend each day on different activities-consistently finds that women still have the priilies. This is true regardless of family structure.
In one study, single, cohabiting, and married women spent up to twice as much time-4.8 hours, 5.8 hours, and 6 hours per day, respectively-on child care as comparable single, cohabiting, and married men, who spent 3.2 hours, 3.4 hours, and 3.1 hours per day, respectively, on child care. 10 It is therefore unsurprising that among parents that wish to work, child-rearing tends to interfere with women’s work in the economy and their employment outcomes more than it does for men. 11 As a result, policies that alleviate child care concerns would be expected to primarily improve maternal employment, though all parents would benefit.
The report closes with a discussion of the overarching benefits of policies that aim to address the child care crisis and set the U.S. economy on the path for sustainable, broad-based growth. S. economic growth in the long term.