The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996, commonly known as PRWORA, emphasizes employment. With its emphasis on time limit sand work requirements, PRWORA makes it imperative that low-income parents find both a job and child care. A study of employment patterns of low-income parents using child care subsidies in order to work provides a valuable opportunity to increase our knowledge of an important characteristic of low-income working parents.
For any working parent, finding stable employment with enough flexibility to meet parental responsibilities is not an easy task, and the challenge is greater for those who lack financial resources, education, and work experience. Knowing employment patterns of low-income parents is a first step toward understanding conditions of the working poor with children. A systematic analysis of where parents receiving child care subsidies are employed enhances our understanding of what is happening to families moving out of welfare. In which occupations are they finding jobs? Which industries are they able to penetrate? Prior to the studies that form the basis of this paper, there appeared to be no systematic study of where parents receiving child care subsidies are employed.
This paper is a product of the Child Care Policy Research Consortium, a collaborative group of researchers that carries out policy-relevant research through partnerships of researchers, state child care administrators, and child care resource and referral practitioners. Through this national collaboration of state partnerships, the Consortium is able to report cross-state findings and compare results from seven studies in four states and the District of Columbia with regard to the employment of parents receiving subsidies.
The first Consortium study, “Parents receiving subsidized child care: Where do they work?” (Lee, Ohlandt, and Witte, 1996) has had significant impacts on both research and policies. The significance of their paper is four-fold. First, they recognized and responded to the importance of this topic and the lack of previous studies. Second, the authors provided a simple but elegant methodology to analyze employment patterns of the working poor with children. Third, their paper had an impact on state policy. Their findings led to the passage of the Florida Child Care Executive Partnership Act in 1996.
Through the Child Care Executive Partnership, the state of Florida matches child care contributions of employers dollar for dollar and creates pools of funds to provide child care subsidies for subsidy-eligible workers. This increases the funds available for subsidies and builds support for child care subsidies in the business community. Finally, the study provided a model that is easily replicated at either county or state levels.
This document is organized as follows. The next section presents background of the seven studies. In the third section, we summarize the common methodology used in the studies and describe variations among the studies. In the fourth section, we discuss findings and make recommendations for further studies. In the last section, we examine the study implications for employers, child care providers, businesses, and policy makers. (author introduction)