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Child Care Access

Access to affordable child care is important to the stability and economic success of Minnesota families. Studies have consistently found that high quality child care and early education programs help children develop the skills they need to succeed, provide important benefits to disadvantaged children, and have substantial economic and social rates of return.1 Specifically, access to child care and early education supports young children to have healthy social-emotional, cognitive, and physical growth during a critical time in their brain development. Access to child care also enables families to participate in the workforce so they, businesses, and communities can thrive.2 Given women’s historical familial role as the primary caregiver, access to child care is also recognized as a critical factor for reducing gender inequalities and supporting maternal employment.3 

And yet, too many families struggle to find affordable child care options. Greater Minnesota, in particular, has faced a troublesome lack of child care access in recent years, with a steep decline in the provision of in-home family child care. During the COVID-19 pandemic, parents and child care businesses encountered new and unprecedented challenges in caring for children. Child care facilities especially faced financial difficulties when public spaces closed and when parents chose to change their child care arrangements. Significant efforts were made and funding distributed to support child care during this time, with the result that the proportion of families with access to child care decreased by only 2.5 percent in Minnesota from January 2020 to July 2021 (representing 7,424 families with less access to child care). As we continue to recover from the social and economic disruptions of the pandemic, increasing equitable access to child care for families across Minnesota is of critical importance for ensuring children, parents, businesses, and communities can thrive.

Goal: All Minnesota families have access to child care so business and community can thrive.

Measurable goal for 2027: Increase the proportion of families with access to child care by 20 percent.

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Source: University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management and College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences

Technical notes: Adequate access to child care is defined as no more than three children under five years old per available nearby child care slot (or at least 0.3 available nearby slots per child). Available child care slots are determined based on the capacity of licensed family-based and center-based child care providers as well as public providers (i.e., Head Start, Early Head Start, and School Readiness pre-k programs run by school districts) and “nearby” is defined as being within a 20-minute drive of each child. For more details on the methodology for this measure of child care access, see Davis et al. (2018).2 The target for this goal is to increase access by 20 percent from 2019 (pre-pandemic) levels.


1 Elango, S., García, J. L., Heckman, J. J., & Hojman, A. (2015). Early childhood education. In R. A. Moffitt (Ed.), Economics of means-tested transfer programs in the United States, Volume 2 (pp. 235-297). University of Chicago Press.

2 Davis, E. E., Lee, W. F., & Sojourner, A. (2018). Family-centered measures of access to early care and education. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 47, 472–486.

3 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). (2018). Engaging young children: Lessons from research about quality in early childhood education and care. OECD Publishing.

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