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Struggling to pay the bills: Using mixed-methods to understand families' financial stress and child care costs

Resource Type: Reports & Papers
Author(s): Grobe, Deana; Weber, Roberta B. (Bobbie); Davis, Elizabeth E.; Scott, Ellen K.;
Date Issued: 2012
Description: Purpose - This study examines parents' financial stress associated with obtaining care for young children while employed in unstable low-wage jobs. The child care subsidy program aims to both improve child care quality and support employment, and we expect that a substantial infusion of resources into this program would reduce parents' financial stress. Methodology/approach - We use a mixed-methods research design to study parents' financial costs of child care, how predictable the cost of child care is to a parent, and what strategies parents employ to manage child care costs. Findings - We find that parents perceive the subsidy program essential to their ability to manage the needs of their children and working. Yet, receiving subsidies does not appear to alleviate parents' financial stress because child care costs continue to consume a large share of the family's income and subsidy policies make it difficult for parents to predict their portion of the costs. Parents manage the large and unpredictable expense of child care by decreasing other expenditures and increasing debt. Practical implications - Changing subsidy policies so they better fit the reality of these families' lives could result in a more substantive stress reduction. States can reduce unpredictability by reducing and stabilizing participants' child care cost burden and revising eligibility policy. Originality/value of paper - This research project fills an important gap in our knowledge about financial stress of low-income working families, provides insights into the role subsidy program participation plays in these parents' lives, and informs discussion of subsidy policy. (author abstract)
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Funder(s): United States. Administration for Children and Families. Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation ; Oregon. Child Care Division
Journal Title: Contemporary Perspectives in Family Research
Volume Number: 6
Issue Number:
Page Range: 93-121
Journal Notes: ISBN: 978-1-78052-978-3 eISBN: 978-1-78052-979-0
Topics: Parents & Families > Child Care & Early Education Expenses

Policies > Child Care & Early Education Policies > Subsidies
Country: United States
States: OREGON
ISSN: 1530-3535 Unknown
Peer Reviewed: yes
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