A substantial proportion of children under the age of 3 are cared for by adults other than their parents. Recent analyses of the 2005 National Household Education Survey (NHES) indicate that 42% of infants under the age of 1, 53% of 1-year-olds, and 73% of 2-year-olds had at least one nonparental care arrangement that occurred on a weekly basis. The large proportion of infants and toddlers in nonparental care reflects, in part, societal trends of increased maternal employment among families of all socioeconomic backgrounds. Labor force participation for mothers with children under the age of 3 increased steadily between 1975 and 2006, from 34% to 60%. As of 2006, 56% of mothers with children under the age of 3 were actively employed.
The use of child care arrangements, especially among low-income working parents, is of key interest to policy makers and others interested in understanding how child care can support employment among low-income families and families who are leaving welfare. Child care use is also of key interest to those interested in child development, since in addition to supporting employment among low-income families, high-quality child care has been linked to positive child outcomes.