Study: Child Care Inadequate

GSE Professor Says Shortage May Affect National Policies

A study released recently by researchers at the Harvard Graduate School of Education finds sharp regional and socioeconomic disparities in the distribution of child care.

Bruce Fuller, co-author of the study and associate professor of education at the school, suggested that the child care shortage his study highlights could affect the Clinton administration and Congress' decisions about welfare and child care reforms.

The study, "The Unfair Search for Child Care," examined the number of children who currently attend preschools nationwide and the ratio of child care centers and preschool teachers to the number of children aged three to five years living in the region.

"The market is failing to equitably distribute affordable child care services across regions of the country, and among rich, working-class, and poor communities," Fuller said.

The study says that in all counties investigated there was inadequate space for the number of children and waiting lists at preschools were consistently long. Families in working class suburbs, the rural Midwest and the South have the greatest difficulty finding child care.


Even in states with high numbers of child care centers, poor and rural communities have fewer centers than urban communities, the study says.

"The supply is lower in rural areas because there are fewer government subsidies and less disposable income," said Fuller. He attributed this disparity to the publicity given to inner city children's plight.

The study also finds twice as many preschools available to poor families in the Northeast as in the South.

But Ron Haskins, the welfare counsel for the Republican minority on the House Ways and Means Committee said, "The study does not necessarily stand up very well."

Haskins, citing a similar study done by the Urban Institute, said there is no "child care crisis." He said that as women have entered the work force, the number of centers has grown rapidly.

Haskins called the study unreliable because it ignores private and family-based child care, which he said make up most of the market. He also said that waiting lists do not accurately characterize the demand for child care because lists are not updated frequently and families may be on more than one list.

Fuller suggested that the shortage of affordable, available child care may thwart single parents' ability to move off welfare and into the work force, as President Clinton hopes they will.

Fuller also said that the study informs a dilemma facing the Head Start program. With limited funding, the administration must choose between increasing the quality of existing child care or increasing the number of centers.

Fuller said that he has received positive responses from some congressional staff members and child care advocacy groups.

Recommended Articles