Child Care Subsidy Stability Literature Review

Publication Date: June 12, 2019
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  • Published: 2019


Stable, high-quality child care has numerous benefits for children and families, including providing support for child development and enabling parents to work. To make child care accessible to low-income families, the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) offers guidance and funds to states, territories, and tribes to administer child care subsidies, which are typically vouchers that eligible families can use to pay for care. Stability in the use of CCDF subsidies is important, as a break in subsidy receipt or end of a subsidy spell (due to factors such as parental job loss, change in income, or paperwork challenges) can disrupt child care arrangement stability. Recent policy changes to CCDF aim to improve subsidy stability. Research examining the effects of these policies is just beginning to emerge. A research review can provide an update on evidence about connections between policy and subsidy stability and methodological considerations for future research.


The purpose of this review is to provide a synthesis of research on child care subsidy stability published in the last five years. The review builds on a previous summary completed in 2013. Additionally, this report highlights important methodological considerations for studying child care subsidy policy. The findings are meant to inform policymakers and other stakeholders on factors affecting the stability of child care subsidy use, as well as to provide direction for future studies researching the effects of the policies set forth by the CCDF Final Rule as they are implemented across states.

Key Findings and Highlights

The literature review highlights a few key findings regarding subsidy stability, as well as important implications for future research.

  • Implementation and administration of subsidy policy may be as important for subsidy stability as the policies themselves.
  • Policies that lengthen subsidy eligibility periods tend to be associated with subsidy stability.
  • Subsidy stability, or the duration of a subsidy, rather than simply subsidy use, may be important to ensuring child care arrangement stability.
  • Further research is needed to examine the effects of policies set forth in the CCDF Final Rule. Researchers should acknowledge the context in which policies are implemented and design research that highlights the importance of studying combinations of policies.
  • Future research should pay special attention to the methodologies used to study subsidy policy and be transparent and detailed in describing specific methodologies.


To search for literature on child care subsidy stability, we used targeted search terms related to child care subsidy stability on the following databases: PsycINFO, EBSCO Host, JSTOR, ERIC, and Research Connections. Relevant articles, including peer-reviewed research as well as pertinent research briefs and reports published since 2012 that were not included in the previous literature review on child care subsidies, were included in this review (Forry, Daneri, & Howarth, 2013). Articles were considered relevant if they included research on subsidy stability, duration of subsidy spells, continuity of care, or subsidy policies related to eligibility. A panel of external reviewers who are experts in the field of child care subsidy use reviewed and added to the list of articles. Finally, selected articles were reviewed for key findings, as well as methodological considerations and information on the article’s relevant policy contexts.


Shaw, S.H., Partika, A., & Tout, K. (2019). Child Care Subsidy Stability Literature Review. OPRE Research Brief # 2019-17. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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