University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Employment and Training Institute

Summary

Addressing Barriers to Employment: Findings from the National Survey of America's Families for Milwaukee County Families with Preschool Children, 1997 and 1999

by John Pawasarat, Employment and Training Institute, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, May 2002.

The complete Milwaukee County report is available in PDF.
The complete U.S. study is also available online.

The National Survey of America's Families, conducted in 1997 and in 1999, provides a unique opportunity to examine the child care arrangements and employment patterns of mothers with preschool children in Milwaukee County. The survey was designed to be representative for the nation as a whole and for 13 states, including Wisconsin. Milwaukee County was the only county in the U.S. to be separately surveyed. (1) This technical assistance paper was prepared at the request of Milwaukee County to use the NSAF survey to help estimate the number of families needing Wisconsin child care subsidies for low-income families and to analyze the type of care selected by working parents in Milwaukee County.

The analysis focuses on the estimated population of 65,766 Milwaukee County children under age five. (2) Given the interest in determining the number of families eligible for Wisconsin child care subsidies, the population was analyzed by three income levels: an estimated 19,473 children in low-income families (with income at less than 150 percent of the federal poverty level), 20,526 children in mid-range income families (with income at 150-299 percent of poverty), and 25,767 children in upper range income families (with income at 300 percent or more of poverty). (3)

I. Who Needs Care

Data from the 1997 and 1999 National Survey of America's Families indicate that much of the Milwaukee County preschool population eligible for the Wisconsin child care subsidy program may already be receiving support. This is because lower-income single parents are not employed at levels that would make them eligible for subsidies and almost none of the two- parent low-income families have both parents employed at the required levels.

  • The percent of the population of low-income preschoolers with a mother employed remained the same for 1997 and 1999. In 1999 a slightly higher percentage of mothers were employed full-time.

  • The majority of Milwaukee County mothers of preschool children do not work full-time. In 1999, 28 percent of preschool children in lower-income families had a mother employed full- time (40 hours or more a week), as did 36 percent of children in families with mid-range income and 49 percent of children in families with upper-range incomes.

  • The additional percentage of Milwaukee County children with mothers employed half-time or more (i.e., 20 39 hours per week) was 18 percent for children in lower-income families, 22 percent for children in mid-range income families, and 22 percent for children in upper- range income families.

Table 1:


Status of Milwaukee County Children Under Age 5 by Income Level and Mother's Employment
National Survey of America's Families: Milwaukee County, 1999
Family Income as a % of Poverty Level:
Less than 150% 150-299% 300% or above ALL
Estimated total number of children 19,473 20,526 25,767 65,766
% of children in 2-parent families 35% 78% 88% 69%
Percent of children where mother is:
Employed full-time (40+ hours) 28% 36% 49% 39%
Employed 20-39 hours/week 18% 22% 22% 21%
Employed 1-19 hours/week 3% 9% 8% 7%
Not employed 51% 33% 21% 33%
TOTAL 100% 100% 100% 100%

Graph 1:

Employment
Status of Mothers with Preschool Children

II. Who Is in Child Care

Table 2:


Hours in Child Care for Preschool Children of Mothers Working 20+ Hours per Week
National Survey of America's Families: Milwaukee County, 1999
Family Income as a % of Poverty Level:
Less than 150% 150-299% 300% or above ALL
Children with mother employed 20+ hr/wk 9,037 11,780 18,395 39,212
Hours in work-related child care:
Full-time day care, 40+hours/week 51% 46% 38% 43%
Part-time care, 20-39 hours/week 24% 20% 27% 24%
Part-time care, less than 20 hr/week 9% 14% 19% 15%
None 16% 20% 16% 17%
TOTAL 100% 100% 100% 100%

Graph 2:

Hours in Child
Care for Children with Mothers Employed at Least Half-Time

III. Type of Care Selected: Group, Relative or Non-Relative

The type of full-time care selected by employed mothers varies by income level of the family and the presence of a child care subsidy. This analysis examined the full-time care used for preschool children with mothers employed 20 hours or more a week. (Note: In the NSAF relative care does not include care by a parent or other family member living in the household. Only child care by non-household members is considered in the analysis.)

Table 3:


Full-Time Care Preferences for Preschool Children
(Where Child is in Day Care 40+ Hours per Week and Mother Is Employed 20+ Hours per Week)

National Survey of America's Families: Milwaukee County, 1999
Family Income as a % of Poverty Level:
Less than 150% 150-299% 300% or above ALL
Full-time care preferences
Relative care 28% 43% 20% 30%
Group care 69% 28% 52% 48%
Other 3% 29% 28% 22%
TOTAL 100% 100% 100% 100%

Graph 3:

Type of Full-
Time Preschool Care Selected by Milwaukee County Mothers Working  20 or More Hours a
Week

Graph 4:

Who Uses
Relatives for Full-Time and Part-Time Child Care

The NSAF survey collected information on whether child care was subsidized, with subsidies most often cited as coming from the welfare department, social service agency or other agency, a sliding fee scale, or in a very few cases as an employer subsidy.

IV. How Much Do Milwaukee County Parents Pay for Child Care

The NSAF collected information on child care expenses for each Milwaukee County family with children in day care.

Graph 5:

Monthly
Family
Child Care Costs for Milwaukee County Preschool Children with  Mothers Working 20+ Hours
a Week

Table 4:


Child Care Expenses for Mothers with Preschool Children and Employed 20 or More Hours per Week
National Survey of America's Families: Milwaukee County, 1999
Family Income as a % of Poverty Level:
Monthly Child Care Expenses* Less than 150% 150-299% 300% or above
Percent with NO child care expenses 48% 41% 26%
Percent paying $1-$99 per month 11% 5% 39%
Percent paying $100-499 per month 34% 42% 6%
Percent paying above $500 a month 7% 12% 29%
TOTAL 100% 100% 100%

*The NSAF reported monthly child care expenses for all children in care.

Endnotes

1. The National Survey of America's Families collected information on children, adults (under age 65) and families living in non-institutionalized settings. Low- income households were oversampled. For a detailed description of the survey and methodology, see the Urban Institute's website.

2. In most cases these children are not enrolled in school. Four percent were enrolled in Head Start.

3. Family income levels were for the prior year. In 1996 income at 150 percent of poverty was $15,540 for a two-person family and $23,400 for a four-person family; income at 300 percent of poverty was $31,080 for a two-person family and $46,800 for a four-person family. In 1998 income at 150 percent of poverty was $16,275 for a two-person family and $24,675 for a four-person family; income at 300 percent of poverty was $32,550 for a two-person family and $49,350 for a four-person family.

4. Caution should be used in interpreting results between years as the survey sample size may result in a high margin of error.


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