1 in 4 NC Children Lives in Child Care Desert

For working parents with young children, the task of finding child care can be daunting. While the cost of child care can be one barrier to child care access, less understood are the roles of supply and location. A new report by the Center for American Progress examines the location of child care centers across eight states, including North Carolina, and uncovers another challenge facing working families: child care deserts.A child care desert was defined as ZIP codes with more than 30 children under age 5 that contains either zero child care centers or so few centers that there are more than three times as many young children as there are spaces in centers.

In North Carolina, families in rural areas are most impacted:

  • 35 percent of children in rural areas live in a child care desert.
  • 24 percent of children in suburban areas live in a child care desert.
  • 13 percent of children in urban areas live in a child care desert.

An interactive map highlights child care deserts by ZIP code for each of the eight states studied: Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia. These maps allow people to check whether their ZIP code is, in fact, a child care desert. You can find the interactive maps at

The report also found that child care desert communities tend to have higher proportions of Hispanic residents and lower proportions of African American residents.