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Two in Five Virginians Live in "Child-Care Deserts"

Two in five Virginians live in areas without sufficient childcare to meet local families' needs, according to a new study. (Woodleywonderworks/Flickr)
Two in five Virginians live in areas without sufficient childcare to meet local families' needs, according to a new study. (Woodleywonderworks/Flickr)
October 31, 2016

RICHMOND, Va. — A new study shows that more than 3.25 million Virginians live in areas without enough childcare facilities to meet local needs.

The Center for American Progress report examined statistics from eight states to compare the number of children under age five to the number of childcare providers. Report author Rasheed Malik, a policy analyst with the Early Childhood Policy Team at the center, said fully two-thirds of the children in rural parts of the state live in what the study described as "childcare deserts."

"About 2 million Virginians live in rural areas, and those communities have the highest likelihood of being childcare deserts,” Malik said. "So it's in some ways, a rural problem."

About 40 percent of Virginians overall live in childcare deserts, according to the study, which is close to the national average.

Malik said children of color - especially Hispanic children - are more likely to live in childcare deserts. And the consequences could be felt for decades to come.

"Think about our future: future workforce, our future innovators. These children deserve the best start that we can possibly give them,” Malik said. “And high-quality childcare and early education is one of the safest investments that we can make as a society."

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

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - VA