Population Research and Policy Review 21: 241–273, 2002.
© 2002 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
If you build it, they will come: parental use of on-site child care
, DEBORAH S. DEGRAFF
& RACHEL WILLIS
Department of Economics, Bowdoin College;
Department of American Studies, University
of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Abstract. Employer-sponsored on-site child care, although a small percentage of the U.S.
child care market, is of substantial interest to families, ﬁrms and governments searching for
relief from work/family conﬂicts. This paper analyzes employee survey data from three ﬁrms
in the same industry and local labor market, two of which offer on-site child care while one
does not. These data allow for detailed descriptive and multivariate analysis of the child care
strategies of working parents, including primary, secondary and Saturday care, and how such
strategies are affected by the availability of employer-sponsored on-site care.
Keywords: child care, on-site centers
The increases in women’s labor force participation and single-parent house-
holds during recent decades in the United States have led to growing tension
for families of young children as parents try to ﬁnd affordable and reliable
child care during their working hours. The market for non-parental child care
that has developed in response includes a variety of options, ranging from
individualized care in the child’s home to large, institutionalized daycare cen-
ters. One child care option that is available to only a small number of parents
is on-site child care, that is, a child care center located at either parent’s place
of employment. While the number of on-site centers is small relative to the
total number of families using child care during working hours, employer-
sponsored on-site child care is one of the fastest growing niches in the child
care market. The increasing availability of on-site child care is often heralded
as a desirable outcome, one that will have substantial beneﬁcial effects on wo-
men’s status, on the level of work/family conﬂict, and on productivity more
generally. Many states currently have tax incentives for promoting employer-
subsidized child care and Congress has recently considered similar national
While there is an extensive literature analyzing women’s participation in
the labor force and the type of child care selected by parents in the United
States, little is known about parental choice of on-site center care.