PROJECTWhat If We Expanded Child Care Subsidies?


Child care is a critical family need, allowing parents to work while keeping children safe and supporting their healthy development. But quality child care is expensive and difficult to find, particularly for low-income parents, who face additional challenges affording and finding care while they work.

Child care subsidies from the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) can help low-income families with children younger than 13 (or older children with special needs) pay for child care, yet CCDF’s funding is only sufficient to provide subsidies to a fraction of eligible families. But what if the child care system were funded so that more eligible families could participate? 

These fact sheets and accompanying brief explore how many additional children would be served and the effects on maternal employment and child poverty if child care subsidies were significantly expanded.

Using the Urban Institute’s Analysis of Transfers, Taxes, and Income Security microsimulation model with 2016 American Community Survey data, we modeled an expansion of child care subsidies so that all families with incomes below 150 percent of the federal poverty guidelines who met their state’s other eligibility criteria and wanted a subsidy received one. 

We produced a national fact sheet and fact sheets for all 50 states and the District of Columbia to illustrate the effects of the expansion:






Most fact sheets include the following information, but some states may be missing some elements because of an insufficient sample:

  • the number of additional families in the state who would start receiving a subsidy because they meet all other eligibility rules but are currently not receiving a subsidy (these data do not reflect new entrants to the workforce)
  • the number of additional mothers in the state who would join the workforce, knowing they would receive a subsidy
  • the number of additional children in the state who would be served in an average month, which reflects both children in currently eligible families and those whose mothers would join the workforce
  • the number of children in the state who would be lifted out of poverty primarily because of the estimated increase in parental employment

Fact sheets for all but six states include additional estimates for families with children under age 3. To learn more about our national estimates and methodology, please see the accompanying brief, “What If We Expanded Child Care Subsidies? A National and State Perspective.”

Research Areas Families Wealth and financial well-being Children and youth
Tags Child care subsidies
Policy Centers Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population Income and Benefits Policy Center