Multiple Factors Predict Higher Child Care Costs for Low-Income Hispanic Households
Cost is a key factor shaping families’ decisions about whether and when to use different types of child carea arrangements for children.1 Recent federal guidelines suggest that affordable child care should cost no more than 7 percent of a family’s income.2 Yet, national analyses indicate that the average market price of formal child care (e.g., centers and licensed or regulated family child care) exceeds the recommended benchmark of affordability in every state in the United States.3
For Hispanicb households, which tend to have high levels of employment4 as well as low levels of income,5,6 finding affordable child care options that meet both parents’ and children’s needs may be especially challenging. In an earlier brief, we reported that although approximately 6 out of 10 low-income Hispanic households with children in care pay no out-of-pocket costs, fewer than 1 out of 10 pay affordable costs according to the federal benchmark of 7 percent or less of income—and more than 3 out of 10 pay costs that exceed this threshold. Moreover, we found that households in the latter category spend, on average, nearly one-third of their income on child care.7
In the current brief, we draw on data from the 2012 National Survey of Early Care and Education (NSECE) to extend this earlier work and explore how various characteristics of households, communities, and nonparental care arrangements predict different levels of child care spending for a national sample of low income Hispanic households with young children (birth to age 5). Recognizing that such factors do not operate in isolation, we use a statistical method—multivariate ordinal regression—that allows us to consider multiple characteristics simultaneously while estimating the relative contribution of each one in predicting the percentage of income that Hispanic households spend to meet their child care needs.
Together, our findings suggest that child care affordability for low-income Hispanic households is a function of multiple characteristics of household composition, employment and economic status, community, and child care arrangements. Notably, several characteristics that might otherwise be associated with economic mobility (e.g., dual-earner households, low poverty, and suburban communities) are also linked to higher child care spending for low-income Hispanic households, signaling that opportunities for these families may come with additional costs.
Low-income Hispanic households are more likely to pay a larger share of their income on child care if they:
- Have an infant or toddler
- Are headed by a single parent
- Include working parents, especially more than one
- Receive public assistance
- Live in a low-poverty community
- Live in a suburban community
- Use multiple care providers
- Use center-based care arrangements
Low-income Hispanic households are less likely to pay a larger share of their income on child care if they:
- Include a co-resident grandparent
Factors found to be unrelated to low-income Hispanic households’ level of child care spending were the presence of older children in the home, availability of a nearby relative to provide care, household immigrant status and English proficiency, nonstandard parental work hours, household income level, and total hours of child care used per week.
a We primarily use the term “child care” in this brief rather than “early care and education” because some of the arrangements included in this household-level analysis of costs may be for school-age children.
b In this brief, we use the terms “Hispanic” and “Latino” interchangeably.
1 Chaudry, A., Henly, J. R., & Myers, M. (2010). Conceptual Frameworks for Understanding Child Care Decision- Making, OPRE White Paper. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from https://www.acf.hhs.gov/opre/resource/conceptual-frameworks-for-child-care-decision-making-white-paper
2 Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2016). Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) Program. Federal Register, Vol 81, No. 190. Retrieved from https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2016-09-30/pdf/2016-22986.pdf
3 Fraga, L. M., Dobbins, D. R., Draper, F., & McCready, M. (2017). Parents and the High Cost of Child Care: 2017. Arlington, VA: Child Care Aware of America. Retrieved from https://usa.childcareaware.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/2017_CCA_High_Cost_Report_FINAL.pdf
4 Wildsmith, E., Ramos-Olazagasti, M.A., & Alvira-Hammond, M. (2018). The Job Characteristics of Low-Income Hispanic Parents. Bethesda, MD: National Research Center on Hispanic Children & Families. Retrieved from https://www.hispanicresearchcenter.org/research-resources/the-job-characteristics-of-low-income-hispanic-parents/
5 Wildsmith, E., Alvira-Hammond, M., & Guzman, L. (2016). A National Portrait of Hispanic Children in Need. Bethesda, MD: National Research Center on Hispanic Children & Families. Retrieved from http://www.hispanicresearchcenter.org/publications/a-national-portrait-of-hispanic-children-in-need/
6 Gennetian, L., Rodriguez, C., Hill, H. D., & Morris, P. A. (2015). Income Instability in the Lives of Hispanic Children. Bethesda, MD: National Research Center on Hispanic Children & Families. Retrieved from https://www.hispanicresearchcenter.org/research-resources/income-instability-in-the-lives-of-hispanic-children/
7 Crosby, D., Mendez, J., & Barnes, A. (2019). Child Care Affordability Is Out of Reach for Many Low-Income Hispanic Households. Bethesda, MD: National Research Center on Hispanic Children & Families. Retrieved from https://www.hispanicresearchcenter.org/research-resources/child-care-affordability-is-out-of-reach-for-many-low-income-hispanic-households