Child Care Subsidy Stability Literature Review

Research BriefAug 7 2019

Stable, high-quality child care has numerous benefits for children and families, including providing support for child development and enabling parents to work. To make child care accessible to low-income families, the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) offers guidance and funds to states, territories, and tribes to administer child care subsidies, which are typically vouchers that eligible families can use to pay for care. Stability in the use of CCDF subsidies is important, as a break in subsidy receipt or end of a subsidy spell (due to factors such as parental job loss, change in income, or paperwork challenges) can disrupt child care arrangement stability. Recent policy changes to CCDF aim to improve subsidy stability. Research examining the effects of these policies is just beginning to emerge. A research review can provide an update on evidence about connections between policy and subsidy stability and methodological considerations for future research.

The literature review highlights a few key findings regarding subsidy stability, as well as important implications for future research.

  • Implementation and administration of subsidy policy may be as important for subsidy stability as the policies themselves.
  • Policies that lengthen subsidy eligibility periods tend to be associated with subsidy stability.
  • Subsidy stability, or the duration of a subsidy, rather than simply subsidy use, may be important to ensuring child care arrangement stability.
  • Further research is needed to examine the effects of policies set forth in the CCDF Final Rule. Researchers should acknowledge the context in which policies are implemented and design research that highlights the importance of studying combinations of policies.
  • Future research should pay special attention to the methodologies used to study subsidy policy and be transparent and detailed in describing specific methodologies.

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