What Parents Pay For

Child Care Characteristics, Quality, and Costs

by Linda Waite, Arleen Leibowitz, Christina Witsberger

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Although most children whose mothers work receive some nonparental care, this "child care" varies tremendously in its characteristics, especially quality. Child development researchers and practitioners have explored in detail the characteristics of child care that provide the best environment for children. However, virtually nothing is known about which parents select "high-quality" care for their children, or which arrangements most often have the features associated with the best outcomes for children. This Note explores these issues, using parents' reports of characteristics of their child's care arrangement from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. Results show that on several dimensions, care in a home — the child's own, a non-relative's, or a relative's — provides features linked to quality care. However, in general, parents do not pay more for the features of child care associated with high quality in the child development literature. The authors discuss the implications of these results.

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