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National Study Names Child Care Deserts in Minnesota

More than half of Americans don't have adequate access to quality, affordable child care in their neighborhoods, according to a new study. (Tom Reynolds/Flickr)
More than half of Americans don't have adequate access to quality, affordable child care in their neighborhoods, according to a new study. (Tom Reynolds/Flickr)
September 7, 2017

ST. PAUL, Minn. – There's good news and bad in newly released data about the supply of good quality child care.

The bad news is 26 percent of Minnesotans live in so-called child care deserts, without sufficient care for the families who need it.

The good news is that Minnesota ranks better than most states.

Study co-author Rasheed Malik, an analyst with the Center for American Progress, says the data show slightly more than half of Americans don't have access to high quality, affordable child care where they live.

"Latino and Native American populations are much more likely to live in child care deserts,” he states. “And if you look at the lower income parts of rural America, those are actually the places that are most likely to show up as child care deserts."

The study says access to child care is much like infrastructure – essential to the economy, and worth more federal investment.

A similar study last year showed 75 percent of Minnesotans lived in a child care desert. But this year's study included licensed family providers, of which there are 10,000 in Minnesota.

The State Legislature has funded pilot programs that attempt to address the problem, especially in rural Minnesota.

Cisa Keller, senior vice president for early childhood quality development at nonprofit group Think Small, says foundations, businesses and academics are trying different strategies, including forgivable loans and leaning on employers.

"We don't have a one size fits all model, and shouldn't, that doesn't work well in Minnesota,” she states. “But you really need to get in at the local level, figure out what the needs are and what the opportunities are, and that everyone has a place in which to support that."

Keller says child care deserts are real, and gathering more data about them is helpful.

She agrees that child care ought to be affordable, accessible and devoted to preparing young children for success in school and life.

"Pretty much everybody is touched in some way, shape or form by child care,” Keller states. “We know that child care is an essential part of Minnesota's economy. And so, with the prevalence of child care deserts, we have parts of Minnesota that are not able to reach their full economic potential because of the lack of child care.”

The study found that in child care deserts, families are likely to face waiting lists, make unlicensed child care arrangements or decide not to have a parent work full-time.

Reach Malik at 202-481-8118; Keller at 651-641-0305. Report:

Laurie Stern, Public News Service - MN