Child Care Quality in Different State Policy Contexts
Using data from the Child Care Supplement to the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, we test associations between the quality of child care and state child care policies. These data, which include observations of child care and interviews with care providers and mothers for 777 children across 14 states, allow for comparisons across a broader range of policy regimes and care settings than earlier research on this topic. Using multilevel linear and logistic models, we found that more generous subsidy policies (that is, greater investment, higher income eligibility) were positively associated with the quality of care in nonprofit child care centers, as well as with the use of center care. The stringency of regulations (that is, teacher education requirements, teacher-child ratios/thresholds) was also associated with both quality and type of care, but in more complex ways. Higher teacher training requirements were positively associated with the quality of both family child care and nonprofit centers, while more stringent regulations decreased the number of children attending center care. No links were found between state policies and the quality of for-profit center care. The implications for policy makers, advocates, and policy analysts are discussed.