National Data Snapshot of Potential Demand for and Policies to Support Nontraditional-Hour Child Care

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Demand for child care for parents who work early in the mornings, evenings, nights, and weekends is a concern for policymakers trying to increase access to child care. Families working these nontraditional-hour (NTH) schedules can face extra challenges finding child care, and public funds less often support the care arrangements they use. The child care crisis brought on by the pandemic has amplified the challenges of accessing NTH care and the impact of race on families’ risks and opportunities.

Between 2015 and 2019, there were approximately 23,600,000 United States children under age 6 each year. Of these children, 13,900,000 had working parents, and 4,953,100 had parents working nontraditional hours—defined here as working before 7:00 a.m. or after 6:00 p.m. during the week, or anytime on weekends.

 

Share of United States Children, Younger Than Age 6 and with NTH-Working Parents, Whose Parents Work in Different NTH Time Frames

The figure below shows the share of children, under age 6 and with NTH-working parents, whose parents work in different NTH time frames. Understanding the hours that parents are working allows policymakers to tailor policies to those times when parents are most likely to need care. For example, policies that incentivize child care providers to open early might differ from incentives for providers offering evening, overnight, or weekend care. And standards for programs operating at different times might differ.

FIGURE 1

 

Children in Families Facing Structural Barriers More Often Have NTH-Working Parents

Parents of all types and income levels work NTH schedules, but parents in some groups are more likely to have NTH schedules (see figure below). Research shows that people with lower incomes, who are Black and Latino, who have lower levels of education, and who are single parents face structural barriers to employment, education, and access to services. Children in families that have historically experienced these structural barriers are more likely to have NTH-working parents. Understanding which families are working NTH schedules allows policymakers to develop and implement policies that are equitable and meet different groups’ needs.

FIGURE 2

 

This snapshot was supported by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) of the United States (US) Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award (Grant Number 90YE0241) totaling $105,000 with 100 percent funded by ACF/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, ACF/HHS or the US Government. For more information, please visit the ACF website. We thank them for their support but acknowledge that the findings and conclusions presented in this snapshot are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the funder or the Urban Institute. Further information on the Urban Institute’s funding principles is available at urban.org/funding principles. Additional information on the data and methodology, including definitions of children with working parents and with NTH-working parents, is available here.

Copyright © July 2021. Urban Institute. Permission is granted for reproduction of this file, with attribution to the Urban Institute.