Research Report Child Care Use for Young Children during Nontraditional Hours
Findings from Analysis of the 2019 National Survey of Early Care and Education
Diane Schilder, Cary Lou, Laura Wagner
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Many families need child care during nontraditional hours. We define nontraditional hours as 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. on weekdays and any hours on the weekend. To answer policy-relevant questions about nontraditional-hour (NTH) child care, we analyzed data from the 2019 public use National Survey of Early Care and Education.

Key Takeaways

  • A large share of young children—about 40 percent of those in nonparental care or 5 million young children in 2019—were in care during at least some NTH periods.
  • Children in families who are part of groups most likely to face barriers to employment, education, and access to care are more likely to use NTH care.
    • Black or Latino/a children; those living in families with lower incomes; and those living with a single parent or grandparent, relative, or guardian instead of a parent are more likely than their counterparts to be in NTH care.
    • Children in families living in communities with high levels of poverty and in rural areas are more likely to be in NTH care than those in communities with low poverty levels and in suburban communities.
  • The types of care used for children in care during NTH differs from those used for children in care during traditional hours only.
    • Parents who use NTH care are more likely to use family, friend, and neighbor care during NTH periods as well as during traditional-hour periods and are less likely to use center-based care.
  • The time when children are most often in NTH care is during the weekend and the hours immediately before and after traditional hours during the workweek.
    • Fifty-five percent of children in any NTH care are in care on the weekend.
    • On weekdays, higher percentages of children are in NTH care during the hours immediately before and after the traditional day whereas overnight nonparental care is much less common.
  • The amount of time children spend in care is much higher for children in care during any NTH period compared with children who only spend time in care during traditional-hour periods.

Policy Considerations

  • We recommend that federal and state policymakers
    • Review existing child care policies, regulations, and the implementation of policies to identify how policies can support the types of care parents with NTH schedules rank most highly.
    • Consider how to support children's school readiness for children in care during NTH since regardless of care schedule, parents are more likely to rate center-based care as excellent in supporting children's school readiness than care provided by friends or relatives.
    • Support research on evidence-based solutions for meeting the child care needs of parents and families with NTH schedules.
Research Areas Children and youth Families Immigration Race and equity Social safety net Workforce
Tags Child care Alternative or nonstandard work arrangements Child care and early childhood education Child care subsidies Early childhood education Families with low incomes Workers in low-wage jobs Race, gender, class, and ethnicity Racial barriers to accessing the safety net Racial and ethnic disparities Structural racism
Policy Centers Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population
Research Methods Data analysis Quantitative data analysis