Nearly 40 percent of people in Florida live in a child care desert and have little or no access to quality child care, according to a new report by the Center for American Progress. Child care supply is especially low in Florida’s rural areas, where 51 percent of residents live in areas without enough licensed child care providers.
Mapping America’s Child Care Deserts, notes that over the past few decades, the percentage of families in which all parents work outside the home has increased dramatically. At the same time, a growing body of research has affirmed the role of early care and education in shaping children’s educational, health, and social outcomes.
“In most markets, these coinciding factors should produce a thriving market for quality child care. Certain places—usually affluent suburbs—have indeed seen supply rise to meet demand. As this study finds, however, many neighborhoods, small towns, and rural communities across the country have inadequate child care options.”
The report analyzes the locations of licensed child care providers in 22 states—covering two-thirds of the U.S. population—and finds that approximately half of Americans live in areas with limited access to childcare.
The report includes an interactive map by state which displays data on the location and licensed capacity of licensed or registered child care providers. All child care centers; family child care providers; Head Start providers; and public and private preschools in the states were included in the report in order to get a full picture of the supply of licensed child care options available to nearby communities.
Among the key findings:
- Fifty-eight percent of rural tracts qualify as child care deserts, while only 44 percent of suburban neighborhoods fit the definition. Urban areas where the median family income is below average also have high rates of child care deserts.
- Hispanic/Latino and American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) communities are disproportionately represented in child care deserts, with roughly 60 percent of their combined populations 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.