U.S. Department of Commerce

Child Care

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About Child Care

Information collected on child care through the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) has evolved over the years to include comprehensive data on child care use, cost, and receipt of government assistance. Beginning with the 1996 SIPP panel, child care data was collected about all arrangements for all children under the age of 15, regardless of parental labor force status. Earlier SIPP panels only collected data on the primary and secondary child care arrangements for a limited number of children, and usually only for employed parents.

Child Care Definitions

The universe of respondents in the SIPP child care module consists of adults who are the parents of children under 15 years old. A reference parent is selected in households where both parents are present to report child care arrangements for each child. In married-couple families, the mother is the reference parent. If the mother is not available for an interview, proxy responses are accepted from the father or husband. In single-parent families, the resident parent is the reference parent.

If neither parent is in the household, the guardian is the reference parent. Reference parents include biological, step- and adoptive parents, or other relatives/non-relatives acting as a guardian in the absence of parents.

Child care providers can be broadly classified as being relatives or nonrelatives of children.

Relatives include mothers, fathers, siblings, grandparents, and other relatives such as aunts, uncles, and cousins. Non-relatives include in-home babysitters, neighbors, friends, and other non-relatives providing care either in the child's or the provider's home. It also includes family day care providers who are non-relatives who care for one or more unrelated children in the provider's home. Organized care includes day care, nursery or preschool, and federal Head Start programs for those 5 years and younger. Kindergarten/grade school is also included in the organized care total for children under 5 years. To present a comprehensive view of the regular weekly experiences of children under 15 years old, this report also shows the incidence of children enrolled in school and enrichment activities (such as sports, lessons, clubs, and after- and before-school care programs), and the time children are in self-care situations.

Some parents may not be able to specify an arrangement that is used on a regular basis at least once a week and may reply as having no regular arrangement. Enrollment in kindergarten/grade school and time spent in self-care are shown in the tables for informational purposes even though they are not considered to be child care arrangements. In addition, the term multiple arrangements is used to designate children in more than one child care arrangement on a regular basis.

The design and implementation of the SIPP child care module may lead to a certain amount of age shifting. Age shifting occurs when a child's birthday falls between the enrollment period for a child care program (i.e. school, Head Start, etc.) and the period that the SIPP survey takes place. For example, a five-year child enrolled in Head Start who turns six by the time of the survey would be out of universe for the Head Start question at interview date, resulting in an undercount of children in Head Start. Further information about Head Start enrollment can be found at the Office of Head Start.


Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Child Care |  Last Revised: March 27, 2013