Working class families struggle nationwide to find affordable high quality child care for their families. Cost is a significant barrier. However geographic accessibility of child care stands out as well. This geographical disparity is commonly referred to as child care deserts. Lack of affordable child care has negative results on parents, employers, children and the economy as a whole.
CCRC’s Research Department evaluated access to child care in our service area and the results are distressing. According to the Center for American Progress, 51% of Americans live in child care deserts. However, in Northern LA County, 70% of people live in a child care desert, while an alarming 95% of people in San Bernardino County experience the same. Inequity exists in access to child care and these disparities present themselves in various ways. Namely, the following results are found for those living in child care deserts:
- Higher rate of Latinx, African-American, and Native-American families live in child care deserts compared to Caucasians and Asians
- Higher poverty rates for children under age 6 in child care deserts (in LA, but not San Bernardino)
- Lower rates of children with both parents in the workforce in child care deserts (if one stays home, they may not need child care)
- Higher rate of children with single parents in the workforce (child care deserts may have lower costs of living, thus attracting single parents to these communities)
- Lower rate of maternal labor participation (the direction of influence is uncertain – if there is a lack of available child care, people cannot work and conversely, if they don’t have a job they may not seek child care)
- Higher rate of workers who work non-standard hours (those working non-standard hours are often low-income and may select more affordable communities)
- Rural communities are particularly constrained by a lack of access to child care
- Some of our most vulnerable children, those receiving child care subsidies, are more likely to live in child care deserts
Access to child care is a critical support for ensuring working parents have access to retain employment. The poverty rate for children under 6 years is higher in child care deserts (27.6%) than in non-child care deserts (18.7%). The share of mothers in the workforce with children under 6 years is lower in child care deserts (63.9%) compared with non-child care deserts (67.3%). Access to child care is a critical support for ensuring working parents access and retain employment and lift themselves out of poverty.
A lack of available child care significantly limits a parent’s live choices that could facilitate their economic mobility. According to a Washington Post Child Care poll, more than 75% of mothers and 50% of fathers passed up work opportunities, switched jobs, or quit their job due to lack of paid leave or child care.
So what can we do to bridge the gap?
Addressing child care deserts requires a comprehensive approach. The time to focus funding in areas of greatest opportunity is now. Policy recommendations to tackle child care deserts in CCRC’s service area include:
- Incentives to increase the number of child care providers.
- Paid family and medical leave.
- Increased public investment to adequately cover the cost of child care.
- Targeted investments in geographies and for groups where there are the greatest inequities to access.
- Increased funding to create, build, and support early childhood education facilities.
This has wide-reaching implications, even for those without children. At CCRC, we have a waiting list of 29,074 families who are desperate for flexible child care support for their 52,231 children so that they can continue to work. These families are eligible for support and earn less than 70% of the state median income but cannot receive a voucher due to a lack of funding. A community is more likely to stay impoverished when a substantial amount of its citizens are adversely affected.
Information is key. Share this with your neighbors, friends, and family. An in-depth analysis on the issue and story map compiled by our Research Department can be found here. If you have any further questions, please reach out to our Director of Research Dr. Susan Savage at 818-717-1040 or [email protected].