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Outline Index. Namespaces Article Talk. In sum, state child care regulation exerts an important influence on the child care market, affecting both the quality of care in the state and, because quality comes at a price, the cost of care as well. A Children's Defense Fund survey Adams and Sandfort, of state expenditures on child care and early childhood development services revealed dramatic disparities across states. Now that we have outlined government involvement in the child care market, we will describe proposed changes in this involvement and discuss the implications these changes would have for child care in California.
The discussion highlights findings from the academic literature related to the proposed changes. Rather than discussing every proposal that might have implications for child care, we analyze the likely impacts of five general themes that are expected to be important components of upcoming changes at the federal and state level. These are: 1 focus on transition to work in welfare reform, 2 interest in school readiness overshadowed by work emphasis, 3 consolidating federal child care programs into block grants, 4 stricter state-level regulations, and 5 reinstating the California child care tax credit.
Focus on Transition to Work in Welfare Reform One of the primary drivers of change in child care in California is federal welfare reform. Congress produced three separate proposals last year regarding welfare reform that included provisions for child care. The House passed H.
In December both the House and the Senate passed the Conference Agreement bill, which attempted to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions, but President Clinton vetoed this version. It did not have enough votes to override the veto. There is likely to be additional action on welfare reform later this year. One of the predominant themes in these welfare reform bills has been to encourage mothers receiving public assistance to make the transition to work. This reinforced emphasis on work has been embodied in proposed legislation in two ways. First, proposals require states to increase the percentage of welfare recipients who are working.
For example, the Conference Agreement would have required states to have 15 percent of welfare recipients working within two years and up to 50 percent of welfare recipients working within approximately five years. Second, the proposals make the definition of working more stringent. Under the Conference Agreement plan, by the year , mothers must work 35 or more hours instead of the current 20 hours to qualify as working. Moving significant numbers of welfare mothers to the labor force implies a dramatic increase in the child care needs of this population.
Lawmakers have recognized this fact and have incorporated child care programs into welfare programs in tandem with the work requirements. For instance, anticipating federal welfare reform, California proposed its own redesign of its welfare system see California Department of Social Services, a and California Department of Social Services, b. This redesign proposed four employment-oriented programs to replace the existing welfare system and each of these four programs included child care as part of the program. However, whether these efforts to increase government assistance meet the needs of child care among AFDC clients remains questionable.
While federal funding targeted for child care appears to be relatively stable, it has dropped in real terms over last few years Adams and Poersch, This funding will be expected to serve a much larger eligible population under congressional proposals. In particular, the reinforced work requirements will substantially raise the demand for child care in the welfare population. Research findings in a variety of disciplines including child psychology, economics, sociology, and demography have bearing on the likely implications of this reinforced emphasis on work in welfare programs.
To set the stage, first note that the labor force participation rate of public assistance program participants is substantially lower than that of other single mothers and that the labor force participation rates of program participants has fallen over time. Studies have found that young single mothers with infants have a labor force participation LFP rate of about 15 percent; rates increase to about 60 percent for mothers of preschoolers or school age children Hao and Leibowitz, House of Representatives, Considerable research documents that child care costs present a major barrier for mothers' participation in the labor force.
Higher child care costs are associated with lower levels of women's employment Hotz and Kilburn, ; Ribar, ; Blau and Robins, ; Leibowitz, Klerman, and Waite, Hence, public programs that subsidize child care or provide free child care would be expected to boost mothers' LFP. The GAO estimates that providing a full subsidy to mothers who pay for child care could raise the percentage of poor mothers who work from 29 to 44 percent and that of near-poor mothers who work from 43 to 57 percent. Other research indicates that child care presents a greater impediment to the LFP of single mothers than it does to the LFP of married mothers.
First, single mothers receive less support from the father of the child and his family. Many married mothers depend on child care assistance from their husbands Presser, or from an extended family that includes their husband's relatives Leibowitz, Waite, and Witsberger, ; Cochran, Larner, Riley, Gunnarsson, and Henderson, While single mothers are less able to draw on the resources of the child's father, they are more likely than married mothers to live with relatives and so may receive more low-cost child care from their own relatives Hogan, Hao, and Parish, ; Hofferth, ; Parish, Hao, and Hogan, However, relative care is not licensed and often of lower quality.
Second, while research has shown that the child care tax credit promotes the employment of married mothers Blau and Robins, ; Leibowitz et al. The child care tax credit may have little impact on low-income single mothers, since it requires having a tax liability and it is nonrefundable. Despite a large literature on the effect of child care on women's work and the effect of AFDC on single women's labor force participation, only a few studies have examined the impact on maternal LFP of child care programs geared to assist low-income single mothers, such as AFDC disregard for child care costs and public-provided child care places.
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Berger and Black find that single mothers who receive child care subsidies from the Child Care and Development Block Grant are more likely to be employed. Kimmel finds that greater child care subsidies increase the probabilities of labor force participation among single mothers in poverty. Hao and Leibowitz report that subsidized child care and AFDC child care disregards increase single mothers' employment and school enrollment.
There is little knowledge of how public child care programs affect the amount of child care help received from kin, or how much public programs merely "displace" assistance from families rather than provide additional assistance to families in need. A novel component of the Conference Agreement was that welfare recipients be allowed to provide unpaid child care to other welfare families to meet work requirements. This proposal is conceived as a co-op between welfare mothers that could raise the productivity of the group as a whole. A counterpoint to this potential benefit of the policy is the concern that it may not provide quality care.
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The child development literature suggests that care providing cognitive stimuli is particularly important for older preschoolers see next section. It is well known that welfare recipients have lower human capital on average than the rest of the population, and hence that they may not be in a position to provide the type of care that will encourage optimal development among the children.
In sum, evidence suggests that if lawmakers are serious about moving mothers from welfare to work, they must be prepared to address the concomitant child care needs. By including child care provisions as a component of the welfare reform legislation designed to raise the labor force participation of welfare mothers, Congress and the President have indicated that they realize the essential relationship between female labor force participation and child care.
However, it appears that the proposals do not allocate adequate resources to accommodate the additional child care demand generated by the new work requirements. Both Republicans and Democrats agree that investments in school readiness are worthwhile public expenditures. One manifestation of this is the overwhelming bipartisan support for increases in funding for Head Start, the primary federal school-readiness program.
A hallmark of Head Start is its emphasis on quality child care provision that aims to prepare children for school--that is, child care that has a strong cognitive and socioemotional development component.
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In contrast to the interest in school readiness is the fact that a by-product of the work-oriented child care proposals may be a compromise on child care quality. Hence, although lawmakers have an interest in school readiness, it is likely to be overshadowed by the current emphasis on work-related child care programs. In this section, we review the proposed changes that are likely to have an impact on school readiness.
These include changes that directly target school readiness--like increasing Head Start funding--and changes designed to accomplish other goals--like moving mothers from welfare to work--which may indirectly influence school readiness. The proposals we examine are those that emphasize maternal labor force participation in welfare programs, the relaxation of quality standards for federal programs, and increased funding for Head Start. Emphasis on Maternal Labor Force Participation.
As discussed in the last section, one the most salient components of last year's welfare reform proposals was to encourage mothers receiving public assistance to make the transition to work.
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A review of research findings indicates that an unintended consequence of this orientation may be tradeoffs in school readiness for the children of welfare recipients. First, the literature on the relationship between maternal employment and child development finds mixed evidence of the effect of maternal employment on child development. Findings vary, depending on the child's age at which the mother returned to work, the continuity of the mother's work during the child's life, the gender of the child, the family's income, and other factors.
In general, studies report a negative impact of maternal work on infant behavior Belsky, ; Clarke-Stewart, ; Belsky and Eggebeen, However, several studies find positive effects of maternal employment on cognitive and behavioral outcomes for older preschoolers Blau and Grossberg, , Desai, et al. Another perspective is that mothers' work increases family income and household production efficiency, which improves children's emotional adjustment and reduces behavioral problems for children of all ages Greenstein, A second line of research stresses that it is not only maternal work but also the type of child care that influences child development.