Report Shows Gaps in Illinois Child Care Supply and Need

A new report from the Bipartisan Policy Center uses child care supply and parent choice data to calculate the number of children whose families do not have reasonable access to care in 25 states, including Illinois. According to the report, “This child care gap analysis provides a long overdue answer to the child care access question and offers a starting point from which the country can work to close the child care gap.”

The report is accompanied by interactive maps and charts such as the one below that shows Illinois counties with the most significant gaps in child care supply and need.

Child care gap chart (percent of children who potentially need care but whose families cannot reasonably access formal care by driving) from Child Care in 25 States: What We Know and Don’t Know, Bipartisan Policy Center, October 2020

Data in the report is available by county, congressional district, state senate district, metropolitan statistical area, and opportunity zone and is based on 2019 data gathered from each state’s various child care and education agencies, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Head Start, tribal entities, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the U.S. Census Bureau 2014-2018 American Community Survey (ACS) 5-Year Estimates. You can read about the report’s mapping methodology here.

The report also includes the following data collection recommendations for states:

  • States should consider using a point-in-time count to reflect capacity and enrollment by age, using age groups that do not overlap or include school-age children. Using point-in-time counts would also allow for better understanding of enrollment and how it compares to licensed capacity.
  • States should develop forums where all child care agencies within a state can align their data collection efforts. Such a central data processing system would enable states to understand new ways families are using parts of the system.
  • States should conduct research and parent outreach to better define need and understand when and why parents are choosing care arrangements.

A similar report and interactive data tool focusing specifically on Illinois was published in 2019 by IFF. This report assessed need and access to quality early childhood education services across the state, including home- and center-based care and preschool programs.