Executive Summary: What Child Care Arrangements Do Parents Want during Nontraditional Hours?

Almost 5 million (or about a third of) children younger than age 6 living in families with working parents have parents who work nontraditional hours, before 7:00 am or after 6:00 pm on weekdays or on weekends. New research from the Urban Institute seeks to understand their child care needs.

Urban researchers analyzed national survey data and talked with 41 parents working nontraditional-hour schedules in Connecticut, the District of Columbia, and Oklahoma. 

This executive summary, which summarizes the findings laid out in a full report, highlights key findings including the following:

  • About a third of all young children with working parents in these sites lived with parents who worked nontraditional hours.
  • About half of all children living with working parents whose family income is below the poverty level have parents who work nontraditional hours. Black and Latinx children are more likely than children who are white to have parents who work nontraditional hours. Sixty percent or more of young children living in single-parent households with working parents have parents who work nontraditional hours.
  • Across most nontraditional-hour periods, most parents across the sites and racial/ethnic groups recommended care in the child’s home by a relative or friend as their first choice during early mornings, evenings, and overnight. Their recommendations for weekend care varied depending on what the child was doing during the week.
  • Parents reported that supporting children’s developmental needs for stability and routine, sleeping in their own beds, unrushed meals, and getting a good night sleep were key reasons behind their recommendations for these time frames.

Policy actions that could support the child care options available to parents who work nontraditional hours include making child care assistance through the Child Care and Development Fund more available for the care arrangements parents recommend for nontraditional hours; ensuring that the care arrangements parents want during nontraditional hours are supported in systems that protect children’s health and safety and promote quality child care and that these systems recognize the unique child development needs of children during NTH hours; and providing parents with information about nontraditional-hour child care options.