BPC conducted several surveys of parents with children under age 5 to learn about the child care challenges they are experiencing—both prior to and during the pandemic. The surveys focus on a number of issues, including the cost of child care and how it affects a family’s budget, the impact of COVID-19 on a parent’s work status and their child care needs, and how school reopening plans influence a parent’s decision around child care. We hope the data collected can help us better understand the needs of parents around the country and guide policy recommendations that can work for them.
BPC Parent Survey Series
Nearly one-third of children do not have access to formal child care. But why? Can parents not afford it? Is there not a slot available? Is the child care center too far away? Or do some parents not want to use a formal child care setting—a center or in-home based care? Understanding barriers and the issues keeping parents out of the formal child care system is critical to developing a system that works for child care businesses and families.
A new survey conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of BPC seeks to understand parents using informal child care. Specific research objectives include:
- Reasons why employed parents choose informal child care
- Circumstances for using informal child care
- Interest and barriers in using formal child care
- Community responsibility for providing child care
The United States boasts 574 federally recognized tribal nations and Alaska Native villages and 326 federal Indian reservations. As of 2019, there were approximately 5.7 million people in the U.S. who identified as American Indian or Alaska Native (AI/AN), or about 1.7 percent of the U.S. population. In 2020, there was an estimated 594,670 AI/AN children. BPC wanted to better understand child care use among AI/AN parents used to serve these children.
A new survey conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of BPC seeks to understand current use of and demand for child care among Native American parents. Survey respondents were screened on personally and/or their spouse/partner claiming AI/AN blood, having a child at home under the age of 12, and having at least one parent in the household employed. This is the first national survey of AI/AN parents with children of this age group that has ever been attempted to BPC’s knowledge. Specific research objectives include:
- Understand resource available to parents in their community, including accessibility of child care providers in rural communities;
- Understand impact of access to child care, including ability to work; and
- Understand factors top-of-mind as Native American parents consider a child care arrangement, including measuring their current child care arrangement compared to their preferred child care arrangement
Accessing child care is difficult for many parents, but can pose a particular challenge for rural parents. BPC’s analysis of child care in 35 states reveals that the gap between potential need and the actual supply of child care is often more pronounced in rural areas than in urban and suburban areas. This means that within an already fragile system, it is even more difficult for rural parents to access child care, making it harder for them to enter the workforce.
A new survey conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of BPC seeks to understand current use of and demand for child care among parents in rural communities. Specific research objectives include:
- Understanding child care needs among rural parents;
- Exploring accessibility of child care providers in rural communities;
- Understanding the extent rural parents have considered formal child care options when selecting a care arrangement and top-of-mind considerations when choosing a child care provider; and
- Use of financial supports for child care, including federal tax credits.
To learn more, watch the webinar.
Over this past year, the pandemic exacerbated the difficulties parents faced in balancing their work and child care. The pandemic both pushed people to adapt to new, and often unfamiliar, work environments and structures while destabilizing an already fragile child care system that many parents rely on. This pandemic simultaneously reflected the flexibility of many workplaces and the inflexibility of the child care system in meeting evolving demands. As we enter the recovery phase, this survey conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of the Bipartisan Policy Center seeks to understand how work settings are changing for employed parents and how that impacts child care demands. Specifically, this survey sought to understand:
- Current and future work and child care arrangements;
- The impact of COVID-19 on children’s social-emotional and behavioral health;
- Use of financial supports for child care, including federal tax credits; and
- Future preferences for child care and pre-k.
Every day, parents across the country make important decisions about who is caring for their children—whether they provide care themselves or rely on formal or informal child care arrangements. Child care is personal and varies based on a family’s needs, preferences, and circumstances. Understanding what drives parents’ child care decisions is key to creating a high-quality child care system that aligns with what parents want for their families.
BPC and Morning Consult conducted a survey of 1,500 parents of children under age 5 in December 2020 to better understand how parents made decisions about their child care arrangements before the coronavirus pandemic and how they are making child care decisions now.
The August 2020 survey found that COVID-19 has greatly impacted child care arrangements for many families. With over 70% of parents reporting their child care programs either closed or are operating at reduced capacity or hours, finding quality child care that fits within a parent’s budget is even more challenging. In this survey, parents also expressed concern about the risk of exposure to COVID-19 and are struggling to balance this fear with their work demands.
Read the corresponding blog, Online Schooling a Logistical Nightmare for Working Parents, which offers key insights into how working parents are making school-age care decisions as schools shift online.
The April 2020 parent survey found that child care in the United States is still necessary for parents to work, even amidst changing work environments. But child care is difficult to find and in many circumstances, closed indefinitely. This leaves parents who are working at home on their own to juggle their work and caregiving responsibilities.
The October 2019 survey found that most American families with children under 5 have had to make significant changes to their budgets to afford child care. The availability of quality, affordable child care has also proved a barrier to parents remaining in the workforce or saving for emergencies and retirement.
Access to quality care and learning in the first years of life is crucial for building a strong foundation that allows children to succeed. Still, a partisan divide has complicated a vital national conversation on increasing child care quality and access. The Bipartisan Policy Center partnered with Luntz Global to survey conservative and liberal viewpoints on child care and early learning, to find that conservatives and liberals alike recognize that early childhood development is critical to the wellbeing of the nation as a whole and even align on some possible policy approaches.
Listen to the webinar event here.
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