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San Mateo County, California: The Economic Impact of Child Care in San Mateo County

Project status

Completed 2001

Lead Agency

Child Care Coordinating Council of San Mateo County LINCC project

Contact Person

Sally Cadigan
Child Care Coordinating
2121 S. El Camino Real,
Suite A-100
San Mateo, CA 94403
(650) 655-6770 x312

Research Firm

National Economic Development Law Center


  • Number of Establishments
  • Child Care Labor Force
  • Children Served
  • Gross Receipts
  • Multiplier Effects on Local Economy
  • Governmental Transfers / Subsidies


  • Long Report (15+ Pages)
  • Newspaper Article / Media Coverage
  • Involved Business / Economic Development

Case Study

Case Study: San Mateo County, CA
"The Economic impact of Child Care in San Mateo County"
Date of Completion: 2001



The San Mateo County child care impact study was conducted by the National Economic Development Law Center (NEDLC), in collaboration with The Child Care Coordinating Council of San Mateo County (4Cs), the local child care resource and referral (CCR&R) agency. There was not a specific advisory committee for this study.


The National Economic Development and Law Center received funding from the Packard Foundation to launch the Local Investment in Child Care (LINCC) project. As part of this effort, NEDLC conducted a child care economic impact report for each county. San Mateo was one of the first counties selected to participate, and conducted an initial study in 1997. The study was updated in 2001, and the data reported in this case study reflects the 2001 update. The LINCC project had several broad goals, including: incorporating child care into land use and economic development planning; providing financial and technical assistance resources for child care facilities development; improving the business management skills of child care providers; and demonstrating child care's fundamental importance to the economy.

The Study:

Sector Definition

The study measures only licensed care, which includes: child care centers, Head Start, family child care and group family child care. Unlicensed, home-based child care for two or fewer children is not included, nor is child care operated by a school district.

Data Analysis

Measurement* San Mateo Co.
Number of Establishments 970
Child Care Labor Force 3,400
Children Served 20,700
Gross Receipts $148 million
Number of Parents with Children in Paid Care  
Multiplier Effects on Local Economy X
Governmental Transfers / Subsidies X
Tax Receipts / Fiscal Impact  

*Not all studies included the same components making it difficult to compare the numbers provided in this chart with those of other studies. In its definition of the number of establishments, this study included licensed and regulated center and home-based care and education and did not include regulation-exempt home-based care or early care and education programs operated by public schools. In its definition of gross receipts, this study included parent fees and government funded programs (Head Start, Pre-K), but did not include provider subsidies (quality, CACFP).

The study addresses the standard measures of the industry: gross receipts, children served and child care workers employed. Input/output analysis was used to estimate the linkage effects of the child care sector.

Unique Finding

The study team estimated the supply/demand gap in child care and found there were 20,700 licensed child care spaces to meet a potential demand for 102,000 spaces. Additionally, the report underscores that a shortage of land threatens the growth and expansion of child care facilities and public schools and the combination of high costs for child care and housing encourages people to work in San Mateo County and live elsewhere.


Organizational Change and Outreach

The study helped the child care community understand the nature of its work and gain respect in the community. There was not a major roll-out for the report, but it has been continuously used as a media tool. The main use of the study has been to gain access to people and resources that were previously inaccessible. The relationship building that has occurred was not due to the study itself but the tenacity and flexibility 4Cs, which used the study as a way to draw attention to the early care and education "industry". This frame was an effective way to get attention from local officials.


The 4Cs has focused primarily on child care policies relating to land use. This has been an effective, but slow, process. Within the county there are over 20 jurisdictions each with its own land use policies.

Since the release of the report 4Cs has successfully launched two child care facilities funds that offer grants for child care program start-up, expansion or renovation. Additionally, an in depth 6-session workshop series on business planning for center directors and board members has been developed and is now offered annually. In 2003 4Cs partnered with the County Office of Housing to produce a Child Care and Housing Linkage Research Study, and with the City of San Mateo to develop and distribute a policy paper on best practices and recommendations for supporting child care development in San Mateo County. Both reports have proven to be useful tools in working with city/county elected officials and decision-makers.

Interview with:
Sally Cadigan
Resource and Referral Manager
Child Care Coordinating Council of San Mateo County
July 13, 2004


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