Prices Reported by Center-Based Early Care and Education Providers: Associations with Indicators of Quality

Publication Date:

January 27, 2021

Paying for child care can place a burden on households, especially those with low incomes. Currently, there is a dearth of knowledge regarding whether households obtain higher-quality child care when they pay higher prices for that care. To that end, this research brief uses data from center-based providers to examine whether centers that report higher prices for child care provide higher-quality care, as measured with a variety of indicators.

Research Question

Are indicators of child care quality associated with higher child care prices, as reported by center-based providers?

Purpose

While much research exists on quality in early care and education (ECE), there is limited information about how the quality of care is related to the prices charged for child care. This report explores preliminary associations between indicators of the quality of care and the prices for care reported by providers in the United States for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.

Key findings and highlights

  • Fewer than half of the quality indicators examined were associated with reported prices. Overall, prices for preschool care had more associations with quality indicators than prices for care of younger children:
    • Prices for preschool care were associated with seven of the 18 indicators of quality considered (39%).
    • Prices for toddler care were associated with three of the 18 indicators considered (17%).
    • Prices for infant care were associated with three of the 14 indicators1 considered (21%).
  • Across the three age groups, classrooms with a highly educated staff member tended to be in centers that reported higher prices, relative to classrooms with staff members with less education.
  • Teachers with certifications or advanced degrees tended to work in centers with higher reported prices, compared to teachers with fewer qualifications. Specifically, preschool and infant teachers with a certification (i.e., a Child Development Associate [CDA] or state certification to teach young children, special education, or elementary school) tended to work in centers that reported higher prices, relative to teachers who lacked a certification. Toddler teachers with an education beyond an associate degree tended to work in centers with higher reported prices, compared to toddler teachers with less than an associate degree.
  • Toddler and preschool teachers who had attended a professional development workshop in the past year tended to work in centers that reported higher prices, compared to toddler and preschool teachers who had not attended a workshop in the past year.
  • Infant and preschool teachers whose professional motivation revealed that they were teaching for career-related reasons tended to work in centers that reported higher prices, compared to infant and toddler teachers who endorsed, for example, teaching “for the paycheck” or “as a way to help other parents.”

Footnote

1 Four indicators of quality could not be considered when examining infant prices due to the small sample of infant classrooms.