Policy Factsheet

Access to Affordable (or Free) Quality Childcare Services

Reasons for Policy

  • Early interventions targeting low-income children have higher success rates than late interventions.1
  • There is a high need for affordable early childcare for working parents; 54% of mothers with children under age of one are in the labor force and 70% of mothers with children under age of six work at least 35 hours a week.1
  • Racial and ethnic gaps in school readiness can widen if childcare quality is not high.2

Community Groups

  • Local Government
  • Local Housing Authorities
  • Local Rental Property Owners/landlords

Policy Components

  • Early childcare that offers a range of operating hours.
  • Childcare from infancy to school-age.
  • Childcare that addresses child’s developmental needs and parent’s employment needs.
  • Demand-side subsidies to help parents pay for childcare.
  • Quality standards, ratings, and tiered reimbursement strategies to promote high-quality centers.
  • Paid family leave and flexible work schedules.

Desired Outcomes

  • Higher IQ
  • Higher cognitive abilities
  • Lower delinquency rates
  • Less time spent in special education or grade retention
  • Increased parental productivity in the workforce
  • Increased parental wages

Level of Evidence Available to Evaluate Effectiveness of Policy

For all policies we describe on this website, we have applied the Standards of Evidence as defined by Flay et al. (2005) in the Standards of Evidence document published by Prevention Science.

The effectiveness level of this policy is 1: Evidence-Based Policies Meeting Criteria for Effectiveness.

The levels of effectiveness as noted are:

  1. meets criteria for policy effectiveness (consistent, positive outcomes from at least two high-quality experimental or quasi-experimental trials using a comparison group or interrupted time series design);
  2. consistent evidence available linking policy with positive outcomes from high-quality observational studies only;
  3. insufficient evidence available for policy or policy components.

Achievable Results

IQ at age 33+4.2%
IQ at age 53+4.1%
Grade retention3-41.5%
Special education3-59.6%
5 or more arrests3-74.8%
Arrests for drug deals3-72.1%
Positive effects have also been achieved in parental workplace productivity, stress, and missed days of work.1

Community Examples

Links to Policy Examples


  1. Morrissey, TW, Warner, ME (2007). Why early care and education deserves as much attention, or more, than prekindergarten alone. Applied Development Science, 11(2), 47-70.  

  2. Magnuson, KA, Waldfogel, J (2005). Early childhood care and education: Effects on ethnic and racial gaps in school readiness. The Future of Children, 15(1), 169-196.  

  3. Zoritch, B, Roberts, I, Oakley, A (2000). Day care for pre-school children. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD000564.  

  4. Flay, BR, Biglan, A, Boruch, RF, Ganzalez Castro, F, Gottfredson, D, Kellam, S, Moscicki, EK, Schinke, S, Valentine, JC, & Ji, P (2005). Standards of evidence: Criteria for efficacy, effectiveness and dissemination. Prevention Science, 6(3), 151-175.