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Overview: The early childhood care and education field is at an exciting moment. Across the US, there is increasing recognition of the economic importance of child care. Early care and education is being recognized as an important economic sector in its own right, and as a critical piece of social infrastructure that supports children's development and facilitates parents' employment. The Linking Economic Development and Child Care Research Project aims to better identify the economic linkages of child care from a regional economy perspective. We support states and localities interested in using an economic development framework to build coalitions with the economic development community, business interests and policy makers to help craft new approaches to child care finance.

Click here to view the most recent Warner team publications on this subject.

Regional Economic Importance of Child Care

Child care, like roads and bridges, is an important part of the infrastructure for economic development. Resources profiled here help teams articulate the regional economic importance of the child care sector and identify new policy approaches to strengthen the sector.

This section provides resources to help communities determine the economic importance of child care sector in their own communities.

1. Calculate sector size. The first step in conducting an economic analysis of the child care sector is to gather data on your sector. The Cornell Methodology Guide is designed to help you through this process.

Measuring the Regional Economic Importance of Early Care and Education: The Cornell Methodology Guide, January, 2004. Rosaria Ribeiro and Mildred Warner, Ph.D.

2. Determine linkage effects. Many states want to conduct regional input-output analyses to determine the linkage effects of the child care sector. Fortunately, Cornell has conducted models for all 50 states!

"Comparing Child Care Multipliers in the Regional Economy: Analysis from 50 States." Liu, Zhilin, Rosaria Ribeiro, and Mildred Warner, 2004. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Department of City and Regional Planning. 

3. Craft economic development strategies. The most important step is to craft economic development strategies to strengthen the child care sector. Cornell has developed a planning guide which profiles examples from across the country:

Economic Development Strategies to Promote Quality Child Care, Warner, M., Adriance, S., Barai, N., Hallas, J., Markeson, B., Morrissey, T., & Soref, W. 2004. Cornell University Department of City and Regional Planning: Ithaca, NY.

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Qualitative and Quantitative Databases

These two modules allow you to explore a quantitative database of economic demographic and policy data for all 50 states and a qualitative database of all state and local studies (completed and in-progress). The site also includes research reports, copies of state studies, advice on economic analysis, and profiles of new approaches to child care policy.

  • Child Care Economic Impact StudiesThis module allows you to browse a database of studies about the economic impact of child care. A total of 100 studies from across the United States and Canada are described. Most studies have information about the agency that conducted the research, as well as links to the project web site and the report itself. A detailed case study is provided for selected projects.
  • 50 State Database: Many organizations provide data on early care and education. This database provides an overview of all current, national sources of comparative data on the early care and education sector including: child care economic data, demographic data, and early care and education program (policy) data. Thirty sources are profiled. These include federal census and administrative data, federal survey data, and national organizations that collect or maintain comparative data on children and families or early care and education more generally.

Counting Care Work

Feminist economists have long argued that unpaid family care work should be counted in economic analyses and that women's extra care burden be acknowledged. These three project reports explore these gender issues in the context of economic impact studies, national GDP accounts, and recent economist reports on preschool.

Mildred Warner presented on the Economic Importance of Early Care and Education at the Achieving Equity for Women: Policy Alternatives for the New Administration conference on April 2nd, 2009 in Washington DC. See the slides from the presentation.


  • Speakers Bureau:  The Linking Economic Development and Child Care Technical Assistance Project created a Speakers Bureau. The goal of the Speakers Bureau is to expand our capacity to educate policy makers, leaders in economic development and early care and education, academics, consumers and others about the links between childcare and economic development.
  • Venture Grants:  In 2006 and 2007, the Linking Economic Development and Child Care Technical Assistance Project awarded venture grants for innovative projects that link child care and economic development. Applications for the venture grant program were solicited from all states and reviewed by a national panel made up of experts in child care, economic development, planning and policy.
  • Outreach Strategies:  Parents lack awareness of existing funds for child care. Educating parents is important both for increasing utilization rates of existing programs, and for working toward increased community funding for child care. To build parent awareness, outreach campaign should involve providers, schools, human services organizations, employers, and the media. A set of documents describe outreach strategies and provide background on existing child care funding resources.


Across the U.S., hundreds of communities are taking important steps to ensure sufficient, affordable, quality child care for all families. At the same time, researchers and advocates work to analyze existing programs and develop new solutions to our nation's most pressing child care issues. These materials describe other communities' work and provide links to further research. 

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Special Projects

  • Tompkins County Early Education Partnership
    The Tompkins County, NY Chamber of Commerce, along with the Day Care and Child Development Council, took the lead in creating the Early Education Partnership. The goal of the partnership is to create a community scholarship fund for child care. The Partnership produced fact sheets rather than a full report.  

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  • "Cultivating Connections between Economic Development and Child Care"
    A statewide conference on economic development and child care was held in at Cornell Unversity in Ithaca, NY in May 2006. Students produced a set of six issue briefs under the direction of Prof. Warner for the conference>

Issue Briefs: