Why and How Do Low-income Hispanic Families Search for Early Care and Education (ECE)?
Child care assistance for low-income families is intended to reduce the cost of care for working parents, encourage children’s participation in high-quality child care arrangements, and increase stability in parents’ employment and children’s care arrangements. Children from low-income backgrounds who access high-quality early care and education (ECE) programs fare better on many developmental outcomes than children who do not. Common forms of child care assistance include federal subsidy programs, ECE programs such as Head Start/Early Head Start, and publicly funded universal pre-kindergarten programs. Understanding how low-income families search for and locate ECE programs that meet their needs, and how they obtain assistance to pay for ECE, is a critically important issue for researchers and policymakers.
Historically, Hispanic families have underutilized government assistance programs aimed at serving families who experience poverty, reporting that they do not need them or do not have knowledge of the assistance available or eligibility requirements. Research has also found that Latino and other immigrant groups may not use federal assistance, due to a belief in helping their larger group (collectivist orientation), which could result in families foregoing support so that others may benefit, even when they themselves are eligible for assistance.
Because the Hispanic population is growing rapidly and often faces considerable economic need—and because ECE can play an important role in reducing racial/ethnic disparities in early learning and later school outcomes—it is important for the research and policy community to better understand how and why low-income Hispanic parents search for ECE. This study takes a closer look at low-income Hispanic parents’ reported reasons for conducting a search for an ECE provider or program for their young children.
This brief uses data from the 2012 National Survey of Early Care and Education (NSECE) to describe why low-income Hispanic parents with young children (birth to age 5) report searching for child care; comparison data for low-income non-Hispanic black and white parents are also reported. Prior research involving low-income families from various racial/ethnic backgrounds showed that parents report a variety of reasons for their ECE searches. There are also several important barriers to low-income families’ use of care, including lack of availability, low affordability, and poor alignment with parents’ work schedules. Understanding similar or shared concerns about ECE across U.S. racial and ethnic groups—along with differences across these groups—can guide outreach by programs and inform policy adjustments that might better serve diverse groups.