Children with special needs are now a population of special interest under federal child care policy. Findings on the effects of child care subsidy for the general population are mixed, but no studies have considered the effects for children with or at-risk for special needs. The purpose of this study was to ascertain the average effects of child care subsidies on school readiness of children with or at-risk for special needs. Using data for 1250 participants in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study–Birth Cohort, we applied propensity score matching and regression analyses to estimate subsidy's effects on kindergarten academic and behavioral competencies of children with or at-risk for special needs who came from low-income families. Results indicated that for the average recipient, subsidized child care had significant negative effects on early literacy (d = 0.21) and numeracy (d = 0.18), and no significant effects on communication, impulsivity, hyperactivity, and prosocial behavior. These findings add to a growing number of largescale analyses showing negative or null effects of subsidized care on early childhood outcomes and highlight the need for continued attention to the appropriateness and effectiveness of subsidized child care, particularly for children with or at-risk for special needs.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported in part by a grant from the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (Grant No. 90YE0166), an office of the Administration for Children and Families in the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
- Child care services
- Children with disabilities
- Economic assistance
- Low-income families
- School readiness