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Subsidy policies and the quality of child care centers serving subsidized children

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Over 1.4 million children from low-income families are in child care arrangements subsidized by federal and state governments through the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF). Their development is affected by the quality of these arrangements, as children benefit from the supportive learning environments found in higher-quality programs. States have broad discretion in setting subsidy policies, and policies vary considerably from state to state. A key question is whether there is an observable relationship between the quality of child care centers serving subsidized children and state subsidy policies, such as the level of subsidy reimbursement rates, the use of tiered reimbursements to incentivize quality improvement, or the practice of paying for care when children are absent. Findings from a statistical analysis of the 2012 National Survey of Early Care and Education (NSECE) generally reveal the expected relationships between state subsidy policies and the quality of centers participating in the subsidy program. That is, the quality of these child care centers is higher in states with higher reimbursement rates and a larger gap between their highest and lowest reimbursement tiers, even after controlling for a variety of other state differences. Although quality is measured using proxy indicators and we cannot be sure that the observed associations are causal, our findings suggest that state agencies can affect the quality of centers participating in the subsidy system through their policy choices regarding rates and related payment policies. Findings and methods are highlighted in this brief, and a fuller description of study methods and findings can be found in our final report (Greenberg et al. 2018). (author abstract)

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Fact Sheets & Briefs
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United States

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