RELEASE: CAP Study Finds that Over Half of Country is a “Child Care Desert”

Washington, D.C. — The Center for American Progress released a new report and an interactive map finding that a staggering one-half of all Americans live in what is known as a “child care desert”—a supply shortage that has a disproportionate impact on rural, Latino, and Native American populations as well as maternal labor force participation. CAP collected data on the location and licensed capacity of nearly 150,000 licensed or registered child care providers in 22 states.

The study dramatically expands on a widely cited 2016 report from CAP that explored child care supply in eight states to provide an understanding of child care availability in roughly two-thirds of the nation. Included in the new report is an interactive tool where individuals can enter their address in one of the 22 states to view the proximity of child care providers in their neighborhoods.

The states included in the report are Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and Vermont.

The term “child care desert,” borrowed from the terminology used to describe “food deserts,” is defined as a neighborhood without any child care options or with so few child care providers that there are more than three children for every licensed child care slot. The data include all child care centers, family child care providers, Head Start providers, and public and private preschools in these states in order to get a full picture of the supply of licensed child care options available to nearby communities. The interactive map will allow users to enter in their address and see the child care supply within their neighborhood, state, and region.

“As the number of families with two parents working outside the home grows, it’s critical that we address the concerning lack of child care in the majority of our country, especially for those living in rural areas. Facing this issue head-on will help expand and diversify our workforce as we continue to grow our economy,” said Rasheed Malik, a policy analyst at CAP.

“Data repeatedly show that early care and education have positive effects on child development, yet more than half of the country faces an alarming shortage of child care providers. Just as we invest in bridges and roads, policymakers at all levels should be investing in our current and future workforce by making child care more available and affordable,” said Katie Hamm, vice president of Early Childhood Policy at CAP.

Key findings from the analysis include:

  • Fifty-eight percent of rural areas qualify as child care deserts, while only 44 percent of suburban neighborhoods fit the definition.
  • Urban areas where the typical family income is below the national average of $62,400 also have high rates of child care deserts.
  • Latino and American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) communities are disproportionately represented in child care deserts, with roughly 60 percent of their population living in areas with a low supply of child care. More than 75 percent of the rural AIAN population lives in a child care desert.
  • Child care deserts have, on average, maternal labor force participation rates 3 percentage points lower than communities where there is adequate child care supply. In communities where median family incomes are below the national average, this maternal employment gap is even wider.

Click here to read “Mapping America’s Child Care Deserts,” by Rasheed Malik and Katie Hamm.

For more information or to speak with an expert, please contact Devon Kearns at 202.741.6290 or dkearns@americanprogress.org.