Inequitable Access to Child Care Subsidies

Child care is an essential support for families, allowing parents to work while their children learn and grow in a safe environment. Many families with low incomes qualify for child care assistance through the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG). However, few get the help they need because funding is insufficient to serve all eligible children.

This brief examines children’s access to CCDBG-funded child care by state, race, and ethnicity using publicly available data from fiscal year (FY) 2016. It builds on CLASP’s previous Disparate Access research. The Office of Child Care made a change to the way it reports CCDBG participation data beginning in FY 2016. As a result, CLASP was able to analyze children’s race and ethnicity concurrently for the first time. Our analysis demonstrates that access to CCDBG-funded child care is low across the board. Just 8 percent of potentially eligible children are receiving subsidies based on federal income eligibility limits. And 12 percent of potentially eligible children are receiving subsidies based on state income eligibility limits. However, access varies significantly by race and ethnicity as well as from state to state.

Compared to potentially eligible children of other racial and ethnic groups, Black children had the highest rates of access nationally. Asian and Latinx children had the lowest rates. In no state, however, did more than half of all potentially eligible children in any racial or ethnic group receive subsidies under federal or state income parameters.

Administrative data alone cannot explain this variability. Our brief analyzes potential factors that may contribute to racial disparities in CCDBG access. We also offer next steps for states to further investigate and begin to address inequities in access to child care assistance.