Can child care assistance in welfare and employment programs support the employment of low-income families?

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Abstract

Policymakers have long recognized child care as a key ingredient in low-income parents' employability. We examine the effects of expansions in child care policies that were bundled with a mix of employment-related policies and implemented as part of several random assignment studies on families' child care access and cost. Almost all of these welfare and employment programs increased employment and led to concomitant increases in the use of child care, especially paid child care. Only the programs that also expanded access or affordability of child care consistently increased the use of child care subsidies and reduced out-of-pocket costs to parents, allowing parents to purchase center-based care. With one exception, such programs had small effects on employment-related child care problems, suggesting that broader and more generous targeting of child care assistance may be important for achieving the goal of enhancing the stability of employment among low-income families. © 2004 by the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.

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