According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 1995, 75 percent of the 19.3 million children under age five were in some form of regular day-care arrangement. Multiple care arrangements were common; 44 percent regularly spent time in more than one arrangement per week (the average was two). Many types of day care were used. Whereas 50 percent of these children were cared for by relatives (such as a grandparent at 30% or the other parent at 18%), 49 percent were cared for by nonrelatives. Some children were cared for in their homes by a nonrelative such as a babysitter, nanny, or au pair (9%), while others were left with a nonrelative such as a friend or neighbor in the caregiver's home (9%).
Other types of nonrelative care include day-care centers (15%) and family day care (13%). A day-care center is an organized facility that is licensed to provide care for many children. Caregivers in centers can change often, and high turnover is frequently a problem. Family day cares are operated in a home environment and may or may not be licensed. States regulate licensed family day cares and day-care centers, and the standards among states vary (e.g., larger versus smaller adult to child ratios required). Some centers surpass state regulations to meet special accreditation standards (such as the National Association for the Education of Young Children, NAEYC).
Other types of care in organized facilities include nursery or preschools (14%), Head Start (3%), and school programs (2%). Nurseries and preschools are schools for young children that focus on specific learning activities and educational goals (for more information, see the Nursery/Preschool section). Head Start is a federally funded program that serves low-income families and children, typically ages three to four years, with the goal of increasing school readiness. Elementary schools may also offer care, either in preschool programs or through early kindergarten admittance.
The Census found that the use of day care was related to parental employment. Of the 25 percent of children under age five not in any regular day-care arrangement, 96 percent had a parent who was not working or in school. In contrast, of the 75 percent who were in a regular arrangement, 98 percent had a parent that was working or in school. On average, these children spent 35 hours per week in day care. Parents who were not working or in school also used day care; 43 percent of their children were in a regu lar arrangement, possibly for enrichment purposes or educational development.
The Census also found that the use of day care was related to certain family characteristics, including marital status, ethnicity, parental education, and child age. Children of never-married parents were more likely to be in relative (55%) than nonrelative care (40%); children with married parents were equally likely to be in either type (49% each). Concerning ethnicity, there were no large differences in use of relative or nonrelative care between European-American or African-American parents (about 50% of children in both groups were cared for in each type), but children of Hispanic parents were more likely to be in relative (43%) than nonrelative care (34%). For parental education, children of parents with at most a high school diploma were more likely to be in relative (48%) than nonrelative care (38%); those with parents with at least some college education were more likely to be in nonrelative (59%) than relative care (52%). Concerning child's age, only 19 percent of children under one year of age attended an organized facility, while 50 percent of children ages three or four years attended organized facilities.
Family income was also related to type of care used. Children of parents in poverty were more likely to be in relative (41%) than nonrelative care (32%). One factor that may contribute to this difference is that relatives are often not paid while nonrelatives are usually paid for their services. Children not in poverty were equally likely to be cared for in both types (about 53% each). In addition, poor families spent on average 35 percent of their annual income on day care; nonpoor spent only 7 percent on average. In 1997, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Study of Early Child Care found that mother's income, in particular, was associated with use of day care. Families that relied more on the mother's income placed their infants in day care at an earlier age and used it for more hours per week than families less dependant on the mother's income.
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