Skip to main content

Oak Park, Illinois

Project status

Not completed (planning (early stages) )

Contact Person

Bob Spatz
Volunteer, Data Committee Chair
Collaboration for Early Childhood Care and Education,
Director of Operations, CRSP – GSB
University of Chicago (w)
773-702-0689 (w) (h)
708-383-7943 (h)

Additional Information

planning (early stages)

Case Study

Case Study: Oak Park, IL

Report Status: Assessing feasibility of study, as of 6/10/04



The Oak Park, IL community is still in the initiation phase of the study. The study has been spearheaded by the Collaboration for Early Childhood Care and Education, which was inspired by a presentation of Cornell’s work. The Collaboration was also motivated by the Illinois statewide economic impact study, which was released in February 2005.

Although the Collaboration attempted to put together an advisory committee based on contacts within the local community, they soon found that the policy makers and business leaders that they hoped to influence needed hard numbers to buy into the idea. After reading the Cornell University Methodology Guide the Collaboration concluded that the Advisory committee would play a key role in the process, both in promoting the study and in bringing legitimacy to the results. They therefore decided to put together some preliminary numbers – a rough study – in order to inspire potential Advisory committee members to become involved. The Collaboration is currently in the process of putting these preliminary numbers together.


A basic goal of the Collaboration is to obtain funding for a child care resource center in Oak Park , and they hope that the economic impact study will be a persuasive tool in the process. A second goal is to increase the advocacy tools for local child care businesses. Outside of a couple of hospitals, Oak Park does not have plants or large office complexes. Through the economic impact study the Collaboration hopes to increase the attention paid to child care in local economic development discussions, in particular surrounding issues such as licensing, inspecting, zoning, and development impact.

The audience for the study includes policy makers, planners, and local business organizations. In particular, the Collaboration would like to see a place and voice for child care businesses in the 3 or 4 local business organizations and the Chamber of Commerce in Oak Park.

The Study:

Size and legitimacy

Oak Park may be the smallest geographic area to attempt an economic impact study of the child care industry. Oak Park has a population of 50,000 in just 4.5 square miles. The Collaboration is well aware of the potential challenges that size presents. A basic concern is the availability of relevant data. A partnership with the local school system, however, has already allowed the Collaboration to successfully poll parents about their child care usage and needs.

A second concern is the legitimacy of assessing the economic impact of child care in a community that is a small section of a larger regional economy. While parents may live and shop locally, they may bring their children to a child care center 1 mile outside of Oak Park, and may work outside the community. In response to this concern the Collaboration is investigating unique ways of measurement more appropriate to their size. Through their connection with the local schools they hope to be able to obtain more detailed data about local families, work patterns, and child care needs. In addition, following the success of their parent survey, they are considering using this method to tackle the issue of quantifying unlicensed child care in Oak Park. While most states and regions have found it too difficult to take on this previously uncharted territory, because of its small size Oak Park may be able to get a picture of unlicensed care.


Although the Collaboration is still in the early stages of creating their economic impact study, they have taken a few important steps. In their initial stages they will rely on their 2004 Kindergarten survey conducted in the local school. In the survey, categories included were relatives, friends/neighbors, daycare home, day care center, and nanny/au pair (as well as parent). They also asked the amount that families spent on day care during the last year. Although the Collaboration only surveyed parents registering their kids for Kindergarten, they have found that there is a good degree of agreement among their survey data, the Action for Children Data, and the Illinois Facilities Fund data (Moving Toward a System,

The Collaboration hired Action for Children to extract both the 2003 and 2004 data specific to Oak Park from Action for Children's annual report. These data among other things, included their estimates of need and summary numbers of cost of different types of care in Oak Park. The complete county-wide study for 2003 is available on-line at: Care_Supply_and_Demand_2003.pdf

Conceptual Challenges

Identifying child care as an industry has proved to be a challenge. Bob Spatz highlighted the basic struggle: “There seems to be hesitation on the part of some early childhood professionals to consider child care as an industry… [It may] dehumanize it.” Framing child care as an industry has also forced the Collaboration to be very specific about some of its goals as it talks about child care. For example, while the Collaboration has expressed a desire to make child care more affordable, they have begun to question the concept of affordability. What is affordability, and affordable to whom? At this early stage in the process they have not yet reached a solution to these questions.

Interview with:
Bob Spatz
Collaboration for Early Childhood Care and Education
Summer 2004