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Report: About Two-Thirds of Illinoisans Live in "Child-Care Deserts"

A new study says Illinois has more children who need child care than there are facilities available. (Mike Baca)
A new study says Illinois has more children who need child care than there are facilities available. (Mike Baca)
October 31, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – A new study shows Illinois has some of the highest numbers of so-called child care deserts in the country.

The Center for American Progress looked at statistics from eight states to compare the number of children under the age of five to the number of child care facilities.

Report author Rasheed Malik, a policy analyst for the Center’s Early Childhood Policy Team, says Illinois has about 8 million people either living too far away from child care centers, or they live near centers that are already at capacity, and can't take in any more children.

"For Illinois, that's about two thirds, and this is also a disproportionately rural phenomenon,” he points out. Two-thirds of the rural child care deserts didn't have a child care center at all within the bounds of that zip code."

Chicago is the largest urban child care desert in the study, with 8 in 10 living without access to child care facilities.

Malik says there are so many children under the age of five that there aren't enough child care centers to accommodate them. He says the city's Hispanic population is affected most.

Malik points out in the decades to come, children of color will become the majority, yet they're more likely to live in child care deserts.

"This is an opportunity for us to think about our future, future workforce, our future innovators,” he stresses. “These children deserve the best start that we can possibly give them, and high quality child care and early education is one of the safest investments we can make as a society."

The study says helping families pay for child care may drive the market. If more families can afford to enroll their children, then more facilities will be built.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IL