Federal funding for child care subsidies has increased substantially since 1996. Although many more low-income families are receiving help paying for child care, there is little rigorous evidence to guide states’ decisions on how to structure subsidy programs. This is the final report of a two-year evaluation in Washington State focusing on one key state policy decision: how much families should contribute when they receive subsidies for child care (the copayment).
The study described in this report examined the effects of reduced copayments on child care subsidy use, employment and earnings, and receipt of Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) and food stamps. Between October 18, 2005, and November 7, 2005, 5,106 families were randomly assigned to either a control group that was assigned the standard copayment amounts, or a program group that was assigned an alternative copayment schedule. Random assignment ensures that any systematic differences that emerged later could reliably be attributed to the alternative copayment schedule.