Child Care Desert Chart

The Child Care Desert Chart below shows how many children were competing for one slot in a nearby licensed child care facility suitable for their age. An area having three or more children competing for one slot is considered to be a “child care desert.”

We used the 2021 American Community Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau to estimate the child population. The Michigan Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) database provided data on available child care slots in each Michigan zip code (Feb. 2023).

Limitations of the available data have led to assumptions and limitations that affect the accuracy of the chart. Even with these limitations, the chart provides a baseline picture of Michigan's child care situations.

  1. To capture how many children were competing for one slot, we assumed that all families in the ACS data who have children of the specified age need and want child care from licensed providers. The number of children competing for slots is therefore overestimated.
  2. Licensed child care providers that served children in multiple age groups were assumed to have slots evenly distributed across age groups. All providers were assumed to be operating at full capacity. These assumptions result in an overestimation of available slots, especially for younger age groups, as many providers did not serve at full capacity due to staffing and other challenges.
  3. Unlicensed, license-exempted, and informal child care providers are not captured in the data. These providers do increase the capacity of the child care ecosystem as a whole. However, the Child Care Desert Chart was designed to track the availability specifically of licensed providers.

To use the chart:

  • Scroll to your county of interest.
  • Hover over the triangle (infant), circle (preschool), or square (school age) to see the child care desert ratio (number of children competing for one slot) in that county.