Child-Care Subsidies and School Readiness in Kindergarten


  • The authors would like to thank Irv Garfinkel, Wen-Jui Han, Gary Natriello, Deborah Phillips, Rebecca Ryan, Elizabeth Votruba-Drzal, Jane Waldfogel, and four anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this article. This research was supported by Grant. 90YE0111 to the first author from the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Grant. F32 HD068083 to the first author from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). However, the contents and any errors are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not represent the official views of, or endorsement by, the funding agencies.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Anna D. Johnson, Georgetown University, Department of Psychology, 306N White-Gravenor Hall, 37th and O Streets, N.W., Washington, DC 20057. Electronic mail may be sent to


The federal child-care subsidy program represents one of the government's largest investments in early care and education. Using data from the nationally representative Early Childhood Longitudinal Study–Birth Cohort, this study examines associations, among subsidy-eligible families, between child-care subsidy receipt when children are 4 years old and a range of school readiness outcomes in kindergarten (sample  1,400). Findings suggest that subsidy receipt in preschool is not directly linked to subsequent reading or social-emotional skills. However, subsidy receipt predicted lower math scores among children attending community-based centers. Supplementary analyses revealed that subsidies predicted greater use of center care, but this association did not appear to affect school readiness.