Availability of Child Care in Rural Communities: Implications for Workforce Recruitment and Retention
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The objective of this study was to identify differences in child care availability by rural–urban location for all counties in Wisconsin, and describe implications for recruitment and retention of health care workforce. We used data on licensed child care slots for young children (age <5), socio-demographic characteristics, women’s and men’s labor force participation, and household structure for all counties in Wisconsin in 2013 (n = 72). Data came from KIDS COUNT, County Health Rankings, and the American Community Survey. We used t tests to analyze bivariate differences in child care availability and community characteristics by metropolitan, micropolitan, and non-core rural location. We then used ordinary least squares regression to analyze the relationship between geographic location and child care slots, adjusting for labor force participation and household structure. Rural counties had significantly fewer licensed child care slots per child than metropolitan and micropolitan counties. These counties also had, on average, higher rates of poverty and higher unemployment than micropolitan and metropolitan counties. The association between geographic location and child care availability remained, even after adjusting for household structure and labor force participation. The number of hours men worked and the percentage of men not working were both negatively associated with available child care slots, whereas there was not a significant relationship between women’s labor force participation and child care availability. Rural areas face health care workforce shortages. Recruitment strategies to overcome shortages must move beyond individual-level incentives to focus on community context and family support, including availability of child care in rural counties.
KeywordsChild care Access Rural communities Rural health Workforce
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