A Tale of Two Child Care Cities

Publication date: 
August, 2017
Center for New York City Affairs

A Tale of Two Child Care Cities

Parents seeking subsidized child care for babies often hope for a spot at a licensed early education center. But almost inevitably, their babies instead wind up in subsidized home-based programs, known as family child care, where women get paid meager wages to look after neighborhood kids in their homes, and which are far less regulated than child care centers. That’s because child care centers citywide have historically had very few slots for children younger than 2 years old, in large part due to the costs and difficulties involved in meeting stringent safety regulations for infants in centers.

In recent years, that’s started to change. As demand for infant care in centers has increased in the City, so have the number of slots available for children younger than 2 years old. But most of the new slots are in centers that serve affluent families. Child care centers for low-income families, on the other hand, have been losing capacity to take in infants and young toddlers. The result is a glut of families on infant-room waitlists and scant child care options for low-income parents.  

In the past two years alone, the number of slots for children under 2 years old increased by 10 percent in licensed early education centers citywide—from 9,853 spots in 2015 to 10,806 in 2017, even as total capacity in centers grew by only 2 percent, according to our analysis of data provided by The City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), which issues licenses to the centers.

Bright Horizons, one for-profit day care provider which in some neighborhoods charges nearly $40,000 a year for infant care, increased their capacity for infants and toddlers by more than 25%, adding 200 new slots.

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