When it comes to choosing a child care arrangement, cost is a big factor in the choices parents make, according to recently released data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).
Every 3 years, NCES conducts the Early Childhood Program Participation (ECPP) component of the National Household Education Surveys Program (NHES) to answer questions about young children’s care and education before starting kindergarten. The ECPP survey reported that 60 percent of children under age 5 who were not yet in kindergarten participated in at least one weekly nonparental care arrangement in 2016. Of those receiving nonparental care,
- 42 percent received only center-based care;
- 25 percent received only relative care;
- 20 percent received multiple types of care; and
- 12 percent received only nonrelative care.
When asked what factors influenced their choice of child care arrangements, 51 percent of parents ranked the cost as “very important” when selecting an arrangement in 2016. This percentage was higher among parents of children in relative care (63 percent) than among parents of children in multiple types of care arrangements (50 percent) and parents of children only in center-based care (47 percent).
Overall, in 2016, some 39 percent of parents with children in nonparental care reported that they had difficulty finding child care. This rate was lowest for parents of children only in relative care (23 percent) and highest for parents of children only in nonrelative care (53 percent). However, among parents who had difficulty trying to find child care, cost was a larger concern for those with children only in relative care than it was for those with children in other arrangements (see figure 1).
Figure 1. Percentage of children under age 5 whose parents reported that cost was the primary reason for difficulty finding child care arrangements, by type of arrangement: 2016
NOTE: Data are for children participating in at least one weekly nonparental care arrangement. Excludes children enrolled in kindergarten.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, The Costs of Child Care: Results From the 2016 Early Childhood Program Participation Survey (ECPP-NHES:2016).
In 2016, fees were less common and costs were generally lower for parents with children in relative care than for parents with children in other types of nonparental care arrangements. Thirty-two percent of parents with children in at least one care arrangement were not charged fees for care, and 58 percent of those children were in relative care. Among children in relative care, 80 percent were cared for by grandparents. When parents paid grandparents for their children’s care, they paid an average of $4.86 per hour, less than the average across all types of care arrangements ($6.93 per hour).
For more detailed information about costs of child care, see The Costs of Child Care: Results From the 2016 Early Childhood Program Participation Survey (ECPP-NHES:2016).
By Tracae McClure and Sarah Grady