Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Policy

First Advisor

Randy Albelda

Second Advisor

Michael P. Johnson

Third Advisor

Michael Carr


This dissertation is concerned with why family child care providers stay in business, why they leave, and the preventability and functionality of turnover (i.e., how it is measured and reported in family child care). Studies have demonstrated that turnover diminishes the quality of child care and thus compromises children’s overall development (Deery-Schmitt & Todd, 1995; Nelson, 1990; Phillips, Howes, & Whitebook, 1992). It also disrupts parents’ labor force participation, which in turn negatively affects children’s development.

The investigation involves quantitative analysis of a cross-sectional survey of the family child care workforce in New York State. In examining providers’ intentions to stay, I consider important ways that care work differs from other types of work in which turnover is studied and then join constructs from feminist economics and organizational management in a shift away from the dominant research paradigm psychologically focused on leaving. Specifically, I explore whether racial norms, caring motives, and on-the-job links embed family child care providers in their work. I find some evidence that the unique nature of care work may result in family child care providers’ intentions to stay in their jobs despite low wages and alternatives. I conclude that the care work lens helps bring the policy problem of low wages into focus by challenging the fundamental assumption of the competitive market model that individual preferences are exogenous.

In turning my attention to who intends to leave and why, I push the family child care dialogue beyond the status quo of “turnover by anyone and for any reason.” I consider the preventability of leaving and the quality of the potential leaver. I also consider provider replaceability vis-à-vis new family child care entrants. In comparing the traditional turnover taxonomy to an expanded taxonomic approach, I demonstrate the potential advantages of the latter for reaching a more responsible estimate of the impact of provider turnover. I conclude that more responsible turnover estimates will result in more efficient policy responses.


Free and open access to this Campus Access Dissertation is made available to the UMass Boston community by ScholarWorks at UMass Boston. Those not on campus and those without a UMass Boston campus username and password may gain access to this dissertation through resources like Proquest Dissertations & Theses Global or through Interlibrary Loan. If you have a UMass Boston campus username and password and would like to download this work from off-campus, click on the "Off-Campus UMass Boston Users" link above.