By Lauren Biegel, Early Childhood Education and Sara Moran, Center for Social Measurement and Evaluation 

(Note: The analyses in this post uses data on child care centers from September 2021)

Across Texas, 60% of all child care providers accept subsidies – more than 5,000 child care centers and homes. However, many parents that qualify for subsidy care, have limited options of affordable high quality child care providers (those rated by the state’s Quality Rating and Improvement System, known as the Texas Rising Star). In many places across Texas there simply are too few child care providers – and child care seats – in the subsidy system to meet the demand.

According to CHILDREN AT RISK’s analysis of child care provider data and census data, there are close to 147,000 more low-income children (ages 0-5) with working parents than available subsidized child care seats in child care centers and registered homes. That amounts to just 214 subsidized seats per thousand children.


This estimate excludes about 279,000 low-income children already served by public Pre-K and Head Start.

Moreover, when it comes to quality child care seats certified in Texas Rising Star (TRS) – the state’s only quality rating and improvement system – there are only 93 seats for every thousand low-income children. Roughly 4-in-10 subsidized seats are certified in Texas Rising Star.

Child Care Deserts in Texas

Building on work by national experts at Child Care Aware of America and Center for American Progress, CHILDREN AT RISK analyzed data on the supply and demand for child care from every zip code across the state to identify two kinds of child care deserts: subsidized child care deserts and quality child care deserts.

You can explore our Texas child care desert map here.

A zip code is a “child care desert” if the number of children under age 6 with working parents is three times greater than the licensed capacity of child care providers in the area.

Roughly 15% of children (0-5) with working parents live in a child care desert. Roughly 1-in-5 low income children under age 6 with working parents live in a child care desert.


5 in 10 Children of Low Income Working Parents Live in a Subsidized Childcare Desert

The share of low-income children living in a subsidized child care desert, however, is higher: More than half of low-income children with working parents live in zip codes where the supply of subsidized child care meets less than a third of the demand. Lack of access to Texas Rising Star is nearly universal throughout the state among low-income families.

Nearly 9-in-10 children in Texas live in a Texas Rising Star desert.

We expect to see improvement in Texas Rising Star deserts following the passage of HB 2607 in the 87 legislative session. This bill mandates Texas Rising Star participation for all providers who accept subsidy. The Texas Workforce Commission is currently creating the rules and implementation plan, but we look forward to increasing access to high-quality child care.

Call to Action

In order to increase access to affordable high quality child care, one policy recommendation is to create a state funding stream for child care. Currently, all of the funding Texas receives for child care comes from the Federal government. By creating a state revenue stream, Texas could provide our child care workforce with increased, consistent funding to better serve their families and children.