Early Child Care Selection

Variation by Geographic Location, Maternal Characteristics, and Family Structure
Judith D. Singer
Harvard Graduate School of Education
Bruce Fuller
University of California, Berkeley
Margaret K. Keiley
Auburn University
Maryanne Wolf
University of California, Los Angeles


More than half of all U.S. infants and toddlers spend at least 20 hours per week in the care of a nonparent adult. This article uses survival analysis to identify which families are most likely to place their child in care, and the ages when these choices are made. Using data from a national probability sample of 2,614 households, the median age at first placement is 33 months, but age varies by geographic region, mother's employment status during pregnancy, mother's education level, and family structure (one vs. two parents, mother's age at first birth, and number of siblings). Controlling for these effects, differences by race and ethnicity are small. Implications for studies of childcare selection and evaluations of early childhood programs are discussed.

This article was originally published in Developmental Psychology by the American Psychological Association.

Suggested citationSinger, J. D., Fuller, B., Keiley, M. K., & Wolf, M. (1998, February). Early child care selection: Variation by geographic location, maternal characteristics, and family structure [Article]. Policy Analysis for California Education.