The American Dream has always represented opportunity for growth and success to anyone who puts in the work. Unfortunately, for working parents who can’t afford childcare, or live in a childcare desert, that dream is harder and harder. Today, childcare accounts for more than 10% of the income of the average two-income household. It’s even worse for single parents who are forced to dedicate over 27% of their income to basic childcare. These childcare costs are just a portion of the costs required to raise a child. When over one-third of an individual’s annual salary goes into taking care of children, it doesn’t leave much room for anything else.
Despite its enormous wealth, the U.S. is among the 5 least affordable nations for childcare. This puts parents in an impossible situation and relegates many to poverty. People who are already at the poverty line struggle with making enough to cover childcare costs. This makes it impossible for parents to seek higher education or special training to climb the economic ladder and become more competitive in their employment.
Parents aren’t the only ones who suffer as a result of poor access to quality childcare - kids do, too. High-quality childcare usually also provides high-quality early education. Early childhood education is correlated with greater academic achievement in adolescence and higher income and health outcomes later in life. We can set up our kids for success by providing them with high-quality education early in life while also taking the financial burden of childcare off of the back of parents.
While investing in childcare would improve the wellbeing and financial security of American families, it would also contribute to a growing economy. When parents can’t afford childcare, they often have to take a cut in hours, or leave their jobs altogether. An estimated $28.9 billion in wages is lost annually by working families who do not have access to affordable childcare and paid family/medical leave.
What most Americans don’t know is that the U.S. already has a model for universal childcare that works incredibly well: The Armed Forces childcare program. As with many things, the U.S. military has set an example of efficient, high-quality, guaranteed childcare for all military families. This childcare program is based on a percentage of income, and a large portion of the program is subsidized by the government. This has resulted in the highest quality childcare that our country has to offer. All locations are licensed and supervised by trained professionals. Childcare workers receive higher wages and benefits than in the private sector. Parents report high levels of satisfaction with these programs.
The U.S. should adopt a similar program for the entire country to support all parents and families. The federal government should work with local governments and stakeholders to license and fund childcare centers that meet a high national standard for quality. This would mean community organizations, or even private citizens could access federal funds to open and run reliable, quality childcare centers that are held accountable to national standards. This will allow communities to adopt flexible childcare systems that address their unique needs without risking closure for a lack of demand. In cases where there isn’t adequate infrastructure, we can expand existing federal infrastructure to ensure that every family has access to childcare, even those in current childcare deserts.
Families earning less than $60,000 annually should be able to access this care free of cost. For higher-earning families, rates should be capped at a low percentage of income. The scope of this program is ambitious and would require $840 billion over 10 years, but it would be well worth it to lift families out of poverty and ensure that every child is set up to succeed.
Problems to be Solved
- checkCost of childcare in the U.S. is unaffordable for most families, especially those of low income.
- checkUnaffordable childcare reduces the economic power of families with children.
- checkThe lack of quality childcare impacts early childhood learning, which correlates with better academic achievement in adolescence and higher income and health outcomes later in life.
- As a parent of two young children myself, I am for universal childcare. The fact is, a lot of crucial brain activity happens in those early years, based on things like the number of words read to the child and the amount of stimulation they are getting. We need to help out parents early on. Universal childcare is a must.
- checkMake childcare affordable for all families
As President I will...
- Use the U.S. military’s childcare program as a model for the country.
- Invest in federal funding to incentivize both private and public childcare options.
- Work with local communities to license and fund childcare centers that meet a national standard for quality.
- Incentivize university campuses to have childcare, making higher education an option for more parents.
- Encourage and incentivize state funded Pre-K beginning at age 3.