- What is the percentage of children who are cared for by someone other than their parents before they reach kindergarten age?
- What kind of care is provided and how do care use patterns vary by child age?
- How much of this care is subsidized by federal or state programs?
Using two sources of representative data: the 2005 National Household Education Survey and the 2007 RAND California Preschool Study, this paper describes child care and early learning arrangements for the approximately 2.8 million California children ages 0 to 5 who are younger than the age at which they would enter kindergarten. The focus is on nonparental care arrangements, whether they occur in a home-based or center-based setting. The paper also uses administrative data as of 2008 to calculate participation in the various publicly subsidized programs available to qualifying children and their families.
A Majority of California Children Under Age Five Are in Child Care or Early Learning Programs on a Regular Basis
- Just under half of infants and toddlers and 75 to 80 percent of preschool-age children are cared for by someone other than their parents on a regular basis before they enter kindergarten.
- The modal care for infants and toddlers is care by a relative in a home-based setting, but most preschoolers are cared for in a center-based setting, at least part-time.
Subsidized Programs Do Not Reach All Eligible Children, but Most Subsidized Care Is Delivered in Licensed Settings
- California has an array of federal- and state-funded programs that subsidized the costs of care for about 355,000 children as of 2008, primarily those in families with low income. In that year, these programs served about 5 percent of the state's infants and toddlers, 18 percent of three-year-olds, and 34 percent of four-year-olds.
- Given funding levels as of 2008-2009, the existing subsidized programs were not able to serve the approximately 53 percent of children under age 5 who would have qualified on the basis of family income. The estimated share of eligible children served ranges from 8 percent of infants and toddlers to 34 percent of three-year-olds and 65 percent of four-year-olds.
- Most California children in subsidized care are in licensed settings. Among children under age 5, infants and toddlers are more likely to be in license-exempt settings compared with three- and four-year-olds.
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