Evidence of Impact for Child Care Subsidies


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Child care subsidies are one of the six most effective strategies that a state can implement to make sure children get off to a healthy start and thrive, and that promote greater equity in child wellbeing.

Child care subsidy programs provide financial assistance to help make child care more affordable for families with low incomes. States demonstrate leadership in child care subsidy policy by making policy choices to improve families’ access to child care through increasing reimbursement rates, reducing cost burdens on families, and covering a substantial portion of the true cost of providing child care.

The most rigorous research studies show that receipt of child care subsidy and greater state subsidy spending per child:


Increases enrollment in formal child care settings

  • Higher state subsidy spending per low-income child (of $1,000) led to 86% higher odds of enrollment in a single center-based care arrangement, rather than multiple care arrangements

Increases maternal employment

  • A 10% increase in Child Care and Development Fund subsidy expenditures led to a 0.7% increase in mothers’ employment rate
  • $1,000 higher annual state subsidy spending per low-income child led to a 3.5 percentage point increase in the likelihood of maternal employment

Increases a family’s economic security

  • Subsidy receipt led to an increase in monthly earnings by 250%

Visit the Clearinghouse for the comprehensive evidence review on Child Care Subsidies.

The prenatal period to age 3 is the most sensitive and rapid period of growth for the brain and body. State policy choices have a substantial impact on the wellbeing of infants, toddlers, and their parents, and on promoting equity among children. See the Prenatal-to-3 State Policy Roadmap for more information on the most effective policies and strategies states can implement to help children thrive from the start.

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Cynthia Osborne discusses the work of the Prenatal-to-3 Policy Impact Center, which focuses on building the evidence base for effective state policies to improve outcomes for infants, toddlers, and their families. Read the full article
Vanderbilt University’s Prenatal-to-3 Policy Impact Center (PN-3) just issued its annual State Policy Roadmap, exploring ways that the states (and D.C.) can improve conditions so infants and toddlers can thrive. The Roadmap focuses on 12 solutions shown
Paid family leave is one of 12 evidence-based policies in our 2023 Prenatal-to-3 State Policy Roadmap, which details states’ progress toward adopting and implementing policies that effectively improve child and family wellbeing . As of