Research Publication

Access to Early Care and Education for Low-Income Hispanic Children and Families: A Research Synthesis

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Public investments in early care and education (ECE) aim to provide low-income families with resources to help offset the challenges of living in poverty and increase the likelihood of economic mobility and self-sufficiency. Affordable care arrangements allow low-income parents to more reasonably pursue employment or education and training opportunities. In addition, children from low-income families who experience high-quality ECE, especially in center-based settings, fare better in terms of developmental and academic outcomes than those who do not.

Hispanic households—home to roughly 1 in 4 U.S. children—may especially benefit from public ECE investments because they have high rates of parental employment and experience significant poverty. Yet Hispanic populations have historically underutilized government assistance programs aimed at serving low-income families, including those related to the care of young children. Although recent data suggest that ECE utilization is generally increasing among Hispanics, especially for preschool-aged children, there is also evidence of inequities and barriers that limit access for some groups of families.

This review synthesizes the latest research on ECE access for Hispanic families, with an emphasis on low-income Hispanic populations, to highlight factors that facilitate or impede access for this large and diverse U.S. population. A more comprehensive understanding of these factors can inform policy and practice efforts to ensure equitable access and fully achieve public ECE investment goals. We focus the review on three broad questions:

1) What is known about the child, family, and household factors (e.g., child age, parental needs and preferences, and ECE search processes) that shape ECE access for low-income Hispanic families with young children from birth to age 5?

2) How do community contexts, such as the supply of available ECE providers or the presence and strength of social networks, impact Hispanic households’ use of ECE?

3) How do local, state, and federal policy contexts serve to potentially constrain or facilitate Hispanic families’ ECE access?

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