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In this article we explore the association between the time spent in formal childcare by very young children (0-2 years old) and the socio-economic characteristics of their households. The paper aims to evaluate the different impact of important household determinants of childcare use, given different policy measures in support of families, childcare and family-work reconciliation in France, Italy, Spain and UK. We use data from the EU-SILC. Our analyses show that employment status and economic condition are important factors that influence parental decision-making on the use of formal childcare. The effect of these factors differs by country and type of childcare arrangement (part- or full-time), and reflects cultural and institutional differences in childcare and family policies and labour market regulations. France, Italy and Spain follow a similar pattern: women are seen as the principal caregivers. In these countries, the mother's characteristics (i.e. education and employment) are identified as key factors. The results for the UK are not as straightforward. Apart from the mother's employment status, in the UK both the father's and the mother's earnings are relevant.