VOLUME 96, NUMBER 5
Child-care Provider Survey Reveals Cost Constrains Quality
A survey of 414 child care providers in southeastern Wisconsin reveals that cost as well as low wages and lack of bene‐
fits for workers can constrain providers from pursuing improvements to child‐care quality.
High‐quality early childhood care and education has been found to produce short‐ and long‐term educational, cogni‐
tive, and social benefits for children. Consequently, we sought to measure whether our region’s child care providers
have the capacity to supply that type of beneficial care and we wanted to learn from providers where barriers to qual‐
We surveyed licensed and/or certified providers in the seven‐county region, about half of whom are family (home‐
based) child care providers and half are center‐based (group) providers or preschools. Of our survey respondents, 13%
have at least three of five structural factors often associated with highest quality care. In addition, over three‐quarters
of our sample is neither accredited nor seeking accreditation.
When asked why accreditation has not been pursued, most providers indicate that it is too expensive. Costs are also
cited as a barrier to obtaining or providing additional training, while low wages and the lack of benefits are the main
reasons staff have chosen to leave their child care jobs.
This lack of capacity to pursue quality improvements is relevant to the debate in Wisconsin regarding parent subsidies
for child care. Currently, our state spends over $300 million per year in subsidies aimed at increasing access to child
care for low‐income families. Other than the requirement that the subsidies be used to purchase care from a licensed
or certified provider, the monies are not tied to the quality of the provider. Recent attempts by the governor to make
that connection via a quality rating system have not been supported by the legislature.
Our survey findings indicate there may be other opportunities to develop pub