Publication Date



Social Policy Institute at Washington University in St. Louis


This research was funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. We thank them for their support but acknowl-edge that the findings and conclusions presented in this report are those of the authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Foundation.The authors are grateful to Don Baylor at the Annie E. Casey Foundation for his guidance and support throughout the project. We extend our thanks to Elaine Maag at the Urban Institute for offering her expertise related to interactions between the Earned Income Tax Credit and dependent care flexible spending ac-counts.In this two-part series, we provide a field scan of the dependent care flexible spending accounts (DCFSAs) landscape, focusing on child care expenses. We describe the proliferation and utilization of these programs, identify barriers to usage by low- to moderate-income (LMI) parents, and explain features of DCFSA design and program administration that address some of these challenges. We also identify opportunities for im-provements in public policies and employer practices that can level the DCFSA playing field for LMI employ-ees.Part 1 defines DCFSAs and outlines the process through which employees may obtain reimbursement, the benefits that employers may experience by offering DCFSAs, patterns of adoption of such plans by employ-ers and employees, and employee decision-making regarding plan participation.In Part 2, we describe features of DCFSA design and program administration that address some of the chal-lenges and provide a set of policy proposals for consideration by both employers and policymakers.

Document Type

Report or White Paper

Original Citation

Frank-Miller, E., Fox-Dichter, S., & Wolter, S. (2019). Dependent care FSAs: The uneven playing field for employers and workers (SPI White Paper No. 19-01). St. Louis, MO: Washington University, Social Policy Institute.


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Workforce Financial Stability Initiative (WFSI)