Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, collected in late summer through the fall of 2021, this brief documents recent racial and income disparities in reports of inadequate access to childcare and identifies the employment-related consequences of these shortages.

The authors find that, in Fall 2021, about 5 million U.S. households had a child under age 12 who was unable to attend childcare as a result of it being closed, unavailable, unaffordable, or because parents were concerned about their child’s safety in the past month. Black and low-income households were more likely to experience inadequate childcare access. About one in five households with inadequate childcare access suffered a related employment loss as a result of time needed to care for children.

The authors suggest that swift policy actions to stem the loss of childcare slots are needed in the immediate term, including bolstering the wages of the childcare workforce. Longer-term actions should focus on stabilizing the sector with creative investments to increase supply in low-income neighborhoods and cap costs for the most disadvantaged families.


Carsey School of Public Policy

Publication Date

Winter 12-23-2021


National Issue Brief No. 159


Durham, N.H. : Carsey School of Public Policy, University of New Hampshire

Document Type



Copyright 2021. Carsey School of Public Policy. These materials may be used for the purposes of research, teaching, and private study. For all other uses, contact the copyright holder.





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