Frequently Asked Questions
Below you will find answers to some commonly asked questions related to the Early Care and Education Map. In addition, a video tutorial series that explains how to utilize the tool is available in the Insights and Analysis section. If you have questions that are not answered below, or if you are interested in receiving support in using the tool, please contact Shift Research Lab.
We developed this tool to help early care and education providers, funders, policymakers and advocates better understand the existing landscape of quality, licensed early care and education resources. The tool can inform decision-making related to public and private sector investment, provider expansion, spending of quality improvement dollars, and identifying where additional subsidies are needed.
Yes, all of the information and data available in the ECE Map is public and free to use in your work.
Shift Research Lab focuses its work at the neighborhood-level. One of the best ways to visualize how different communities compare across the region is in a map format.
Census tracts are small, relatively permanent statistical subdivisions of a county or equivalent entity that are updated by local participants prior to each decennial Census as part of the Census Bureau's Participant Statistical Areas Program. The primary purpose of Census tracts is to provide a stable set of geographic units for the presentation of statistical data. Census tracts generally have a population size between 1,200 and 8,000 people, with an optimum size of 4,000 people. Census tract boundaries are delineated with the intention of being maintained over a long time so that statistical comparisons can be made from Census to Census. Census tracts occasionally are split due to population growth or merged as a result of substantial population decline. (Source)
For the purposes of this tool, accessibility is considered a type of ECE desert measure. ECE accessibility is the number of licensed slots that are within the median commute distance for a Census tract compared to the likely number of children under five who need ECE resources. When viewing the tool’s maps, the values within each Census tract should be interpreted as follows:
- Accessibility of less than one (A < 1) is lacking enough licensed ECE capacity;
- Accessibility equal to one (A = 1) is in equilibrium;
- Accessibility greater than one (A > 1) has an excess supply of licensed ECE capacity.
Because early care and education enrollment data does not exist in a centralized source, travel data helps us understand the choices families are making when selecting facilities by serving as the proxy for the ECE enrollment distribution.
Determining where the shortage and surplus of ECE exists at a community-level is not as simple as taking the difference between the number of children under 5 and the licensed capacity in their community. At larger geographic units (e.g. the state, and possibly the county), this is defensible, but, as you move to smaller geographic units (e.g. Census tracts) to depict community, more “leakage” occurs. This is because the smaller geographic units don’t represent the complete market that serves families, as families make different choices on where they take their child for care. Some parents’ choices result in finding care within their community, but, in many instances, their choices are based on factors we cannot account for, such as the convenience of having children in an ECE that is closer to work, especially when the parent or caregiver works far from the home. Therefore, understanding the general pattern of parental choice behavior across different communities is paramount to creating the accessibility index at a community level. To get this insight, we sourced aggregated third party cell and GPS data, which is entirely anonymous, to depict travel patterns, and, ultimately, the early care and education choice behavior of parents. Learn more.
Currently, the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program is the only subsidy program that has data available. This subsidy data is available as a specific layer in the ECE map, titled “Licensed Child Care Providers: CCCAP Count.” As more information is made available from the Colorado Department of Human Services - Office of Early Childhood, the map will be updated.
The licensed facility data from the Colorado Department of Human Services - Office of Early Childhood currently does not show standard age breakdown by age groups (e.g. infants, two-year-olds, preschool age). This is a known limitation in the data. To avoid confusing users who are less familiar with the nuances of different data sources, we decided to not incorporate the resource and referral secondary source at this time.
The launch of the ECE Map in December 2016 established a baseline of data. The majority of sourced data will be updated annually. The exception is the “Licensed Child Care Providers” layer, which will be updated monthly to ensure that information is current. The Census data layers are not comparable year over year. Future work is necessary to add the comparable files from 2009 because that element was not included in the first phase of this project. The accessibility data will be updated on an annual basis, or periodically as changes in the “Licensed Child Care Providers” layer warrants running the model for updated results.