Completed 2007

Project Directors:Nancy L. Marshall, Joanne Roberts

workfamilieschildren_small20WCW researchers participated in a study, led by Dr. Valora Washington and under the auspices of the Bessie Tartt Wilson Children’s Foundation, to evaluate the child care voucher system in Massachusetts.


workfamilieschildren_small20Under the auspices of the Bessie Tartt Wilson Children’s Foundation, a team of researchers conducted a study over a twelve-month period to evaluate the current voucher system, with specific focus on the welfare vouchers and the challenges in implementing this system. Researchers at the Wellesley Centers for Women provided consultation on research methods and conducted a study of voucher use in centers.


The Department of Early Education and Care provided the study with a list of all centers’ infants, toddlers, or preschoolers receiving vouchers in 2004. From this list, the study identified 272 centers that were located in cities and towns within 12 miles of Boston, including Boston. These included cities and towns in the Department of Early Education and Care Regions 3 (Northeast Massachusetts), 4 (MetroWest), and 6 (MetroBoston). The study then drew a random sample that was proportional to the voucher market share of each center – the probability that a specific center would be selected into the sample was proportional to the number of children they had who were receiving vouchers. By drawing a sample proportional to the number of vouchers, the study ensured including more of the larger voucher providers, while still drawing a sample that included larger and smaller centers.


The study documents the flow of over 3,295 vouchers for children and families entering the child care system in Massachusetts through these vouchers. In addition to “tracking” the vouchers, the study conducted surveys with 225 families, 88 research and referral (R&R) agency staff, and seven child care center directors.


Through this research, and related work by other members of the Voucher Study team, the study addressed the following questions:


  • What is Massachusetts trying to accomplish with the child care voucher system?
  • What are the intended and unintended impacts of this system?
  • How can Massachusetts design a system that will achieve only the positive, intended outcomes?


This study benefits from having the perspectives of four key players in the system: families, family child care providers, child care centers, and resource and referral agencies. Analysis of their perspectives revealed powerful common themes including that vouchers are indeed an important source of support for families and children.


To view the PDF of this project, click here.