In recent years, the concept of food deserts – areas with little or no access to fresh foods – has been widely publicized and frequently studied. Borrowing from that concept, experts at Child Care Aware and Center for American Progress have coined the term “child care deserts” to identify another crucial commodity with limited availability. These child care deserts are areas where there is a significant population of children too young for public school and a lack of child care providers to meet the demand.

In this study, researchers at CHILDREN AT RISK calculated 4 types of child care deserts throughout the state of Texas:

  1. Child Care Deserts – Zip codes (US Census ZCTAs) with at least 30 children, ages 0-5, where the demand for child care (the number of children, ages 0-5, with working parents) is three times greater or more than the supply of child care (licensed capacity of child care providers in the area).
  2. Subsidized Child Care Deserts – Zip codes with at least 30 low-income children, ages 0-5, where the demand for subsidized child care (the number of children, ages 0-5, with working parents living below 200% of the Federal poverty line) is three times greater or more than the supply of subsidized child care.
  3. Texas Rising Star Deserts – Zip codes with at least 30 low-income children, ages 0-5, where the demand for subsidized child care (the number of children, ages 0-5, with working parents living below 200% of the Federal poverty line) is three times greater or more than the supply of Texas Rising Star-certified child care.
  4. Texas Rising Star Level 4 Deserts – Zip codes with at least 30 low-income children, ages 0-5, where the demand for subsidized child care (the number of children, ages 0-5, with working parents living below 200% of the Federal poverty line) is three times greater or more than the supply of Texas Rising Star Level 4-certified child care .

The supply of subsidized and TRS child care was estimated using 2017 target numbers from the Texas Workforce Commission on the average number of children served each day in the subsidy system in each workforce board region (here). These target numbers were used to estimate the number of licensed capacity seats going to low-income children on subsidy at each subsidy provider.

All deserts also exclude the number of children being served by Head Start and public pre-K providers from the demand for child care in each ZCTA.

Number of children, ages 0-5, with working parents comes from the US Census, American Community Survey 2011-2015 5-year estimate, Table B23008 (from IPUMS National Historical Geographic Information System).

Number of children, ages 0-5, with working parents living below 200% of Federal poverty line was estimated by CHILDREN AT RISK using US Census data (the Census does not calculate this estimate for public release). To calculate this estimate, CHILDREN AT RISK researchers used the 5% microdata sample from the American Community Survey (ACS) 2011-2015 for Texas. Researchers used this data to calculate the share of children, ages 0-5, who are low-income (living below 200% of the Federal poverty line) and the share of children, ages 0-5, with working parents who are low income. At the state level, children with working parents are 15% less likely to be low-income (44.7% vs. 52.6%).

Next, researchers used the ACS 2011-2015 5-year estimates of the share of children, ages 0-5, who are low-income in each ZCTA and reduced the census share by 15% to calculate an estimated share of children with working parents who are low income. (For instance, a ZCTA with 50% of children who are low income would have an estimated 42.5% of children with working parents who are low income.)

Finally, researchers applied the estimated low-income shares to the total number of children, ages 0-5, with working parents in each ZCTA from the ACS (see above) to calculate the number of children with working parents who are low income in each ZCTA. ZCTA (Zip Code Tabulation Area) boundaries – US Census. ZCTAs are statistical entities developed by the US Census Bureau to approximate the boundaries of US Postal zip codes. In most cases, zip code and ZCTAs overlap and cover the same general geographic area. In some cases, ZCTAs encompass multiple zip codes, some of which contain few or no households.

You can explore our interactive map that shows which zip codes are child care deserts, as well as information on child care providers and local elementary schools.