Disruptions to Child Care Arrangements and Work Schedules for Low-Income Hispanic Families are Common and Costly

Research BriefEarly ChildhoodJan 27 2021

Child care is a critical support for working families that allows parents to pursue opportunities for employment and economic mobility.1,2 Child care’s vital role in the lives of families and in the overall economy is reflected in federal and state programs such as the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) that aim to improve low-income families’ access to care options that support parents’ work efforts.3 A key premise of these programs is that families should have access to care arrangements that can both accommodate the needs of parents and children and that coordinate well with parents’ work lives. Yet research consistently shows that many parents encounter challenges when trying to coordinate employment and child care schedules, particularly for those in low-wage jobs.4,5,6

The realities of low-wage jobs—which include short notice of work hours, regularly shifting schedules, and last-minute shift changes—can make it difficult for families to coordinate child care and work. Such difficulties can lead to disruptions. For example, when children are sick, transportation issues arise, or providers are unavailable to cover a work shift, parents or other household members may need to find alternate care arrangements or miss work time. These care-work disruptions may be experienced differently by various racial/ethnic groups, given differences in household, work patterns, and child care utilization characteristics.

In this brief, we estimate the prevalence of care-work disruptions and their consequences for parents’ work in low-income households (defined as incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty threshold), examining how both the prevalence and consequences of disruptions may differ for immigrant Hispanic,a nonimmigrant Hispanic, Black, and White households. We draw on data from the 2012 National Study of Early Care and Education (NSECE) focusing on households with children younger than age 13 and at least one employed caregiver (i.e., households at risk of experiencing disruptions and the target age population for federal child care subsidies). In supplemental analyses, we examine disruptions for the subsample of households with children younger than age 6 to explore whether the coordination of child care and work differs for children not yet in (or just entering) formal schooling.

Footnote and References