September 1, 2001
Urban Institute
By the time they enter kindergarten, most children have already had experiences with a variety of nonparental caregivers in either home-based or center-based child care settings. Children's use of and experiences in early care and education are influenced by a variety of interrelated family and community factors, including the quality and availability of care. The results presented in this paper show that children are more likely to participate in nonparental care settings when their responding parent (the person who responded to the survey as the adult most knowledgeable about the child) is employed. However, even when their responding parent is not employed, between 44 percent and 57 percent of young children (and even higher percentages when three- to five-year olds are examined separately) participate in nonparental care settings, depending on family income. These results highlight the dual role that early care and education serves in the lives of children and families -- both as a support for parental employment and, especially for children age three and older, as an opportunity to participate in settings with social and educational resources that can prepare them for school. The results also underscore patterns of child care use that differ according to family resources, with children from higher-income families -- regardless of their responding parent's employment status -- more likely to use center-based care.