In order to quantify what can be an emotional and complicated experience for families, the Care Index measures three variables: cost, quality, and availability. Together, these pillars of care provide a picture of whether and how families are able to access the early care and learning system in each state.
For cost, we measured the average percentage of income spent on child care for each state (i.e. average cost of care relative to median income).
Because there is no single, consistent system for evaluating quality, we combined measures for three different kinds of providers in each state: the average Care.com rating of in-home care providers (nannies), the percentage of accredited family child care providers, and the percentage of accredited child care centers. We multiplied each by the percentage of children who access that kind of care, and the three were added together to create an overall picture of quality.
Availability for each state measured the proportion of early childhood workers, tracked by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Care.com, to the number of children under 5 in a state.
In addition to measuring these pillars individually, we combined the three to provide a rank for each state’s overall landscape of care. However, because we are aware of the limitations of our data, we divided the states into quartiles rather than absolute rankings. For each quartile, we chose one state for further in-depth reporting to highlight any details our data might not fully capture: Massachusetts (1), Georgia (2), Illinois (3), and New Mexico (4).
The Care Index is a data and methodology collaboration between New America, Care.com and others.