A Crisis of Availability: Childcare in Connecticut for Children 0-3 years old

Kelly Thomas & Lily Ryan

Last updated on December 7, 2023

for Data Visualization for All
with Prof. Jack Dougherty
Trinity College, Hartford CT, USA


The Middlesex Coalition for Children and Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance has asked us to investigate childcare availability in Connecticut. Is there enough childcare availability in the state? Where should resources go to increase childcare capacity? These are all critical questions we investigated in our research into childcare availability for children 0-3 years old in Connecticut.

Childcare access is unequal in Connecticut. There are areas of high surplus and large deficits in care. The following map shows the distribution of childcare home and center programs by using the town’s capacity (number of childcare seats available) per 100 children. Areas of deficit are represented in red, and areas of surplus are in green. Using this map, we will identify areas of childcare deserts where deficits are high in a cluster of towns. The map will provide a visual representation of where access must increase and where resources must be invested. The following interactive table displays the difference in the population of children ages 0-3 and number of childcare seats available. Through the table, readers can look up a specific town and analyze availability. These tools are designed to highlight the difference in access between Connecticut towns and identify areas that need support to expand access.


Our first step was to clean the data imported from the CT Data database which has data on capacity for home and center childcare and youth camp. With the help of our instructor Jack Dougherty, we cleaned the data and then removed data regarding youth camp to focus just on childcare capacity. We then ensured that the towns were recorded in their official name by using GitHub's CTNameCleaner. Next, we created a new spreadsheet with the following information obtained from the data or our calculations: Official Town names, Child Care Center Capacity for children ages 0-3, and Child Care Home Capacity for children ages 0-3, Total Capacity for Children in Child Care ages 0-3 (includes center and home), Children ages 0-5 (obtained from American Community Survey), Estimated Total Children ages 0-3, and Capacity per 100 Children, and the Difference of Child Care Seats and Population.

Official town names came from the cleaned data, along with center and home capacities. For home capacity, it was noted that data includes children ages 6 and under. We did not have the exact number of seats open to children 0-3 since there are stipulations about how many infants are allowed with certain staffing ratios. To make a conservative calculation, we assumed that all the childcare slots in the home facilities could be open to children 0-3 years old. However, we can not be sure exactly how many of the slots are truly held by children ages 0-3 because of the limitations of the CT Data data. We are assuming the slots are open for 0-3 year olds in order to calculate the highest possible capacity. From here, we created a new column to reflect the total capacity for both Center and Home using the sum formula.

To obtain the total estimated population of children 0-3 years old per town in Connecticut, we downloaded census data from the Social Explorer database. From there, we were able to download census data from the American Community Survey 5-year Estimates (2017-2021) for children ages 0-5 for each town in Connecticut. We imported and cleaned the data and then used the V lookup tool to transpose the population data into the spreadsheet containing the childcare capacity data by town. Since the Social Explorer population data included children 0-5 years and the capacity data from CT Data was for children 0-3 years old, we multiplied the population number by ⅗ to estimate the population of children 0-3 years old. In doing so, we assumed that there was an equal number of children of each age thus ⅗ of the population of children 0-5 years old would be a reasonable estimate of the population of children 0-3 years old. To find the childcare capacity of each town per 100 children we used the equation: (capacity/estimated population of children 0-3)*100. We decided to normalize the data this way to make it easier for the reader to understand our calculations. It is easy to visualize the capacity as the number of total childcare seats available for 100 children in each town. To obtain the difference of child care seats and population, or the number of surplus or deficit, we subtracted the total number of children from the total capacity for children. This would tell us how many spots are leftover per child or how many spots are in deficit per child.

The data sourced from CT Data is not complete. Therefore, capacity data for the following towns is unavailable: Bozrah, Bridgewater, Colebrook, Eastford, Franklin, Goshen, Hartland, Morris, and Roxbury Union. These towns are grayed out and unlabeled on the map and interactive table because of the lack of data.


Figure 1: Map shows deficit in red and surplus in green. Gray polygons represent official towns that we do not have capacity data for.

A cluster of towns in the mid-east section of Connecticut including Hampton, Scotland, Sprague, Brooklyn, Canterberry, Lisbon, Griswold, Plainfield and Sterling have a particularly high deficit in childcare capacity with all the towns having less than 25 childcare seats per 100 children. This area can be considered a childcare desert. In this cluster of towns, there is a very small capacity for childcare. When towns with low capacity are clustered together it is called a childcare desert because there is not enough childcare available not only in a particular town but in the entire area. This means that in order for families to find childcare, they may need to look outside their immediate area and have the time, transportation, and financial resources to do so. These towns are a part of Windham County which is colloquially known as the “quiet corner”. These are rural towns that may not have the infrastructure, demand or resources for larger child care facilities. However, it is clear that urban areas experience a deficit as well.

The top 5 biggest cities in Connecticut are in a childcare deficit. Hartford, New Haven, Waterbury, and Bridgeport have between 25 and 50 childcare seats available per 100 children. Stamford has the most capacity with a deficit of 64 seats per 100 children. Even in these areas that are very populated have deficits. This points to a systemic problem of an overall lack of childcare in the state that is not limited to just small or rural towns. Even in areas with a lot of infrastructure and demand, childcare capacity is lacking.

We created an interactive table that highlights the limited towns with surplus child care spots among a sea of deficit. The teal represents a surplus, and the red represents a deficit (100+ spots per 100 kids, 1:1 ration).

There are instances of a high surplus in childcare capacity in 17 towns, most notably Wilton, Canaan, Oxford, Orange, Old Saybrook, Columbia, Mansfield, and Bloomfield. Canaan in particular had a very high surplus of 333 seats per 100 children. We were able to determine that Canaan had a high capacity made up of many different facilities. Canaan is surrounded by towns that have high deficits such as North Canaan, Cornwall, Norfolk, and Sharon.

One potential explanation for the surlplus is that Canaan has an abundance of childcare programs to make up for deficits in surrounding towns such as Norfolk, Andover, and Lisbon. Families who live in Norfolk may send their children to daycare in Canaan since there is more availability. Looking at the state at large, Andover, Lisbon and North Canaan have just 6 slots per 100 children. Going out of town for childcare involves other resources like transportation and time that may not be available for struggling families. Therefore, we can not rely on some towns to have a surplus to make up for the deficits in surrounding towns.


Overall, it is clear that in the State of Connecticut, there is an issue with deficits in childcare availability. In many towns, there is not enough childcare for children who need it. Our investigation showed that there is a childcare desert in Windham County, a rural county with a very low childcare capacity. However, the top urban centers in the state have child care deficits as well. Thus, the issue can not strictly be urban vs. rural. Since childcare capacity can be hard to predict, the interactive searchable table can help readers locate specific towns and identify areas of surplus and deficit.

Works Cited:

CT-Data-Collaborative. (n.d.). CT-Data-Collaborative/ctnamecleaner: Cleaning up CT town names. GitHub. https://github.com/CT-Data-Collaborative/ctnamecleaner.

eLicensing. (2023, December 7). Child Care & Youth Camp Licensing Program Data: Connecticut Data. CT Open Data Portal. https://data.ct.gov/Business/Child-Care-Youth-Camp-Licensing-Program-Data/h8mr-dn95.

Social explorer. (n.d.). https://www.socialexplorer.com/reports/socialexplorer/en/report/a67695d8-8739-11ee-9473-fb32d5c62523.