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Researching the CCDF program by linking administrative data with data from the CCDF Policies Database: A how-to guide

All U.S. States and Territories receive money from the federal government's Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) to operate child care subsidy programs, but each State and Territory has broad discretion in setting specific policies for their individual programs. Which families are eligible to receive subsidies, how much they must pay out-of-pocket, and how much providers will be paid are all policies that vary significantly by state and even by county and locality. This raises an important question for people interested in CCDF-funded programs: What do these policy differences mean for the parents and children served by subsidized child care and for the people providing the child care services? This brief presents an example of how to answer these questions--by linking case-level information on subsidized families and children with detailed policy information from the federally-funded CCDF Policies Database. We illustrate this approach using a specific policy question--whether State/Territory policy choices appear related to the extent to which children with CCDF subsidies receive care from legally unregulated providers. However, our focus is not on the research results--which are intended to be illustrative rather than definitive--but rather on the process for this type of analysis. Linking administrative data with policy data has great potential for exploring the impacts of policy variations, and the CCDF Policies Database provides a rich source of policy data to use in these types of analyses. (author abstract)
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