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Expanding Access to Quality Child Care in Ohio Generates a Whopping 10% Return on Public Investment

New Study Finds Expanding Access to Quality Child Care in Ohio Generates a Whopping 10% Return on Public Investment Annually

Study Supports Decades of Research on the Short- and Long-Term Benefits of Quality Child Care, Shows Major Benefits for Taxpayers

COLUMBUS, OH -- As child care professionals, families, business leaders, and early childhood advocates continue to urge Ohio legislators to expand access to quality child care, a new analysis conducted by the University of Cincinnati Economics Center and commissioned by Groundwork Ohio finds the following:

  • Increasing eligibility to publicly funded child care from 130% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) to 150% of the FPL in Ohio would generate a 404% return on public investment over a 40-year period, or more than 10% annually.

  • Public investment in quality child care and early education produces substantial economic, health, and educational benefits, as well as considerable cost savings for taxpayers by reducing the need for public health, criminal justice, and other interventions. For example, the cost savings of reduced involvement in the criminal justice system alone pays for the cost of expanding access to quality child care more than 2.5 times over.

The analysis reinforces decades of evidence demonstrating the short- and long-term benefits of quality child care and early learning programs. Two recent independent studies in 2017 and 2020 have also validated the effectiveness of Step Up to Quality, Ohio’s 5-star child care quality rating and improvement system. The validation studies show that Star Rated programs are in fact higher quality and improve kindergarten readiness.

“Quality child care is foundational to any workforce policy—it is the smart strategy for the workforce of today and the workforce of tomorrow. At a time when child care has become one of the top barriers to families returning to work and Ohio’s most vulnerable young children have returned to school more behind than ever, the time is now to increase access to quality rated child care programs,” said Lynanne Gutierrez, Assistant Director at Groundwork Ohio. “We know the research, we hear the demands of working families, and we see the impact quality programs have on our children. We have the incredible opportunity to match the need for quality care with resources coming to Ohio through the American Rescue Plan specifically for this purpose—now is the time for action.”

In addition to measuring the statewide benefits of expanding access to quality child care in Ohio, the University of Cincinnati Economics Center analysis also evaluates local benefits in Cuyahoga, Franklin, Hamilton, Lucas, Montgomery, and Summit Counties, as well as the 32 counties located within Ohio’s Appalachian region.

Throughout the state budget process, Groundwork Ohio and diverse stakeholders have called on Ohio legislators to increase initial eligibility for Ohio’s Publicly Funded Child Care program to 150% of the Federal Poverty Level to ensure that more Ohioans have access to quality child care. Currently, Ohio has one of the strictest eligibility standards in the country at 130% of the FPL.

Under Ohio's current eligibility of 130% of the FPL, a single mother of an infant and a 4-year-old who earns more than $28,236 a year (more than $13.57 an hour) earns too much to qualify for child care assistance. By raising initial eligibility to 150% of the FPL, that same mother could earn up to $32,580 a year (up to $15.66 and hour) and still be eligible for publicly funded child care, providing her the support she needs to remain in the workforce.


Groundwork Ohio is a committed, nonpartisan public-policy research and advocacy organization formed in 2004 that champions high-quality early learning and healthy development strategies from the prenatal period to age five, that lay a strong foundation for Ohio kids, families and communities. Learn more about Groundwork Ohio at and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.


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