By Alejandra Ros Pilarz

Despite increases in public funding for early care and education (ECE) programs in recent decades, low-income children ages 0–5 years are less likely to be enrolled in center-based ECE programs compared with higher-income children. Low-income working parents are also more likely to work jobs with nonstandard schedules, which are associated with lower rates of center-based ECE. This study examines whether parents’ work hours and nonstandard schedules explain income-based gaps in center-based ECE using detailed measures of parental work hours and schedules based on calendar data from the National Survey of Early Care and Education. We find that mothers’ work hours and schedules are predictive of 0–5-year-old children’s enrollment in center-based ECE, and accounting for mothers’ work hours and schedules significantly reduces income-based gaps in center-based ECE, particularly among infants and toddlers.

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