Scholars studying the child care sector in Kansas, particularly in rural areas, have found that informal child care services create a large economic impact in the state.
Informal child care services include unlicensed facilities, unreported day care services run from homes, and child care performed for trade rather than money.
The authors estimate that
the informal child care industry created more than 128,000 jobs and added about $971.5 million in total value to the state of Kansas in 2005.
It has to stay under the radar because when something does go wrong - and it will go wrong in informal child care just like it does in government-funded and urban kinds - media stories will be calling for resignations of government employees. In mainstream journalism, illegal immigrants, illegal day care bad.
But in rural areas, formal day care is hard to find.
"In general, child care is much more expensive in rural areas than in urban areas," said Tom Johnson, a professor in the University of Missouri Truman School of Public Affairs. "This is because people in rural areas often have to travel long distances to find child care services. Add the cost of travel to the potential wages many parents do not earn because they spend so much time traveling to and from child care facilities, and the total cost creates a large impediment to working parents."
Johnson says that due to these high costs of child care in rural areas, policymakers would be advised to facilitate increased access to child care services in rural areas.
"Increased access to child care in rural areas, whether it is informal services or formal services from licensed providers, has the potential to create a large, positive impact on rural economies," Johnson said. "Parents with affordable child care will have more opportunities to work, generating more income for families and creating a more diverse economy."
Johnson says that rural economies do not exist in a vacuum, and anything that is positive for rural economies should be reflected back to urban economies in a positive manner as well.