Snapshots from the NSECE: How are Lower-Income Households Using Nonparental Care for Children Under Age 6?

Publication Date: January 27, 2021
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  • Published: 2021

Introduction

This Snapshot identifies the nonparental care arrangements lower-income households, with at least one working parent, use to care for children under age 6 (not yet in kindergarten). This Snapshot is based on data from the 2012 National Survey of Early Care and Education (NSECE) household survey, a nationally representative survey of households with children under the age of 13.

Purpose

The intent of the Snapshot is to examine the types of nonparental care lower-income households, with at least one working parent, use to care for children under age 6. The Snapshot examines the types of nonparental care families use, both solely and in combination, to care for infants and toddlers (0-35 months) and 3- to-5-year-olds (not yet in Kindergarten).  

Key Findings and Highlights

  • In 2012, higher-income households (at or above 200%FPL) were more likely to use nonparental care than lower-income households (below 200% FPL).
    • In lower-income households with at least one working parent, 58 percent of infants and toddlers (birth to 35 months) and 72 percent of 3- to 5-year-olds (36-71 months) were cared for using nonparental care.
    • In higher-income households with at least one working parent, 73 percent of infants and toddlers and 83 percent of 3-to-5-year-olds were cared for using nonparental care.
  • Among children in lower-income households using nonparental care:
    • Most children (infants and toddlers: 92%; 3- to 5-year-olds: 81%) were cared for by one or more providers within a single nonparental care type (e.g., center-based care, paid individual, unpaid individual, other organizational early care and education). However, 8 percent of infants and toddlers and 19 percent of 3- to 5-year-olds were cared for using a combination of nonparental care types.
    • The most common primary care type for infants and toddlers (39%) was unpaid individual care. The most common primary care type for 3- to 5-year-olds (46%) was center-based care.
    • Fewer infants and toddlers (19%) accessed some form of center-based care, either solely or in combination with another care type, than 3- to 5-year-olds (53%).

Methods

NSECE respondents reported all nonparental care arrangements used in the week prior to the survey, for each child in their household under the age of 13. These data were used to identify the types of nonparental care arrangements lower-income households used to care for children under 6. Lower-income households are defined as those with an annual income below 200 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL). This Snapshot is focused on examining the types of care families used, rather than the individual providers. Therefore, it is possible that a child may have been cared for by more than one provider (e.g., Head Start and community-based center) within a single care type (e.g., center-based care).

NSECE respondents also reported the total number of hours each child spent in each nonparental care arrangement in the week prior to the survey. These data were used to identify the primary type of nonparental care where each child spent the most hours in the past week, whether it was their only nonparental care type or part of a combination of nonparental care types. Children who spent an equal number of hours in two or more care types were excluded from analyses examining primary nonparental care types.

Citation

Miranda, B., Gebhart, T., Madill, R., & Halle, T. (2020). Snapshots from the NSECE: How are Lower-income Households Using Nonparental Care for Children Under Age 6? An Analysis of Primary and Combinations of Care Types. OPRE Report #2020-150. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Glossary

Lower-income household:
Households with an annual income below 200 percent of the federal poverty level and at least one working parent.
Higher-income household:
Households with an annual income at or above 200 percent of the federal poverty level and at least one working parent.
Regular child care type:
Type of child care used for at least 5 hours per week. It is possible that a child may have been cared for by more than one provider (e.g., Head Start and community-based center) within a single care type (e.g., center-based care).
Infants and toddlers:
Children ages 0-35 months.
3-to-5 year-olds; children under age 6:
Children ages 36-71 months, not yet in kindergarten.