Supply is the number of child care slots offered by legally operated and state-recognized providers. BPC used this definition to ensure the analysis included the entire range of formal child care settings parents utilize. To build comprehensive datasets of each provider’s location and capacity, BPC worked directly with each state’s various child care and education agencies, as well as federal child care administrations. Each state’s child care supply data was only incorporated into the analysis once the state approved of the dataset. To continuously improve the analysis, the supply data is subject to change as BPC encourages states to continuously include additional facilities information that could make the dataset more complete. See the full report for a detailed explanation of the data collection process.Sources: State Agencies, Office of Head Start, Department of Defense
The number of children age five and under with all available parents in the labor force, according to the 2014-2018 American Community Survey five-year sample. BPC did not analyze the demand for child care: the rate at which families actually utilize or look for formal child care. While child care demand would have produced a better estimate of the amount of additional supply parents actually need, many seasonal and family-related factors influence demand and there is little data available on the demand for child care by geographic area. As a result, gap estimates from this analysis provide informative starting points from which officials can begin to make policy recommendations. But any recommendations must also consider data on how much and what types of child care communities will actually use.
The number of children who potentially need care but whose families cannot reasonably access formal care by driving. Each census block group—the census’s best available household location estimate—was assigned a service area of a specific driving radius. It was assumed that families with children five and under in a given block group could reasonably access the child care facilities within their service area. Thus, potential child care need within each block group was proportionally allocated to the child care providers within each service area until all provider capacity was filled. Urban block groups were assigned service areas with a 3.5-mile driving radius, while rural block groups were assigned service areas with a 10-mile radius to reflect the distances parents in those communities are willing to drive. This methodology enabled BPC to quantify the number of children without access to child care by location. See the report for a detailed explanation of the methodological decisions made in this analysis.
BPC investigated whether a range of socioeconomic characteristics were associated with changes in the size of the gap. Because household level data was not available, block groups across each state were categorized into buckets based on whether a certain proportion of their population aligned with a certain socioeconomic characteristic (thresholds are indicated in the percentages below). Then BPC calculated the total percent gap across the block groups in each of these categories and compared the percent gap to the statewide percent gap.