Population Research and Policy Review 17: 111–140, 1998.
1998 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
State regulations and child care choice
SANDRA L. HOFFERTH
& DUNCAN D. CHAPLIN
The University of Michigan;
The Urban Institute, Washington DC, USA
Abstract. While government regulations are designed to safeguard the health and well-being
of children, they may also alter the cost and availability of child care, thus affecting parental
use of such services. This paper investigates the total effects of regulation on parental choice
of child care and the indirect effects of regulation through the price, quality, and availability
of care. In our analysis of data from the National Child Care Survey 1990 we ﬁnd strong
evidence that state regulations requiring center-based providers to be trained are associated
with a lower probability that parents choose a center, while state inspections are associated with
more parental choice of center and home care. We end by discussing the policy implications
of our ﬁndings.
Key words: Child care, Health safeguard, Government regulations
The cost of caring for young children has been found to discourage mater-
nal employment (Blau & Robins 1988; Connelly 1992). Recent child care
research has attempted to obtain better measures of the incentive and disin-
centive effects of public policies on the cost, quality, and availability of child
care, and how these ultimately affect parental choice of employment and
care arrangements (Hofferth & Wissoker 1992). This paper focuses on the
effects of public policy, in particular, government regulation and inspections,
on parental choice of child care mode through price, quality, and availability.
One purpose of government regulation is to safeguard the health and well-
being of children, and there is evidence that it does so (Phillips et al. 1990).
Regulations can prevent parents from choosing low quality care and provide
them with valuable information regarding the price, quality, and availability of
care. On the other hand, government regulation may have detrimental effects
on the price parents have to pay and the availability of programs if these
regulations increase provider costs, which are then passed on to consumers,
or if they limit the number of providers who can enter or remain in the
ﬁeld (Lowenberg & Tinnin 1992; Rose-Ackerman 1983; Walker 1991). If
regulations increase price and reduce availability, parents may use less child
care even if quality is higher.