For-profit/nonprofit differences in center-based child care quality: Results from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development study of early child care and youth development

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Child care quality; Child care centers; For-profit/nonprofit child care; Sector; Auspice; Structural quality; Process quality


Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


In secondary analyses of National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development data, multiple indicators of quality (caregiver wages and turnover; child/staff ratio; caregiver education and professionalism; positive caregiving) were compared between child care centers by sector (for-profit/nonprofit) and subsector (for-profit independent/chain, nonprofit church/nonchurch) at multiple points from infancy through prekindergarten. Nonprofit centers evidenced higher caregiver wages and education at most ages and better quality child/staff ratios, turnover, caregiver professionalism, and positive caregiving for toddlers and preschoolers. Subsector differences in preschool classrooms were more complex. In general, quality was higher in nonprofit non-religiously affiliated centers, intermediate in nonprofit religiously affiliated and for-profit independent centers, and lower in for-profit chains, but differences were not found on every indicator or between every group. Further, for-profit chain status predicted lower quality positive caregiving, controlling for family characteristics, staff, and structural quality, at 54 months, but not 36 months. Results support and extend prior research by controlling for family characteristics. Policy implications regarding supply- and demand-side quality-improvement strategies that address market competition and parent choice across subsectors are discussed.

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