The Best Laid Plans: Expectations, Preferences, and Stability of Child-Care Arrangements


Department of Sociology and Institute of Government and Public Affairs, University of Illinois at Chicago, 815 West Van Buren Street, Suite 525, Chicago, IL 60607 (


This study considers whether an earlier and more extensive search for child care, and a match of the type used to the type preferred, predicts arrangement stability. We used the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care to estimate multinomial logit models of arrangement changes over 3-month intervals between 3 and 12 months (n= 958 children and 2,223 observations). Use of preferred care predicted greater arrangement stability, and parents who settled early on 1 option were less likely later to switch care types. Those who planned earlier were more likely to use their preferred care type and to use higher quality settings. This study encourages future research on how, when, and with what success parents search for child care.