Record-breaking waiting lists for child care nationwide are forcing families in some locations to plan a baby’s arrival around when a day care center in their area expects an opening.
Working parents from Berkeley, California, to Illinois to New York report calling scores of providers in vain. The shortage is so acute that child care researchers coined a new term for it. Inspired by the description of the absence of grocery stores in impoverished areas as food deserts, they dubbed these regions child care deserts.
Little is understood about the supply of day care in the U.S. Research to date focused in large part on its budget-busting cost. What is clear is this: The market is failing to meet the needs of working parents with kids under 5, and this problem is especially severe in certain places. What’s more, these areas are difficult to pinpoint, with deficits plaguing urban inner cities, suburban regions, and rural towns.