RELEASE: The Importance of Preschool and Child Care for Working Mothers
Washington, D.C. — President Barack Obama’s proposal to expand access to high-quality early education will help millions of parents, especially mothers, across America to better balance their work and caregiving responsibilities without putting their children’s well-being or their own jobs at risk, according to an analysis published today by the Center for American Progress.
The analysis, “The Importance of Preschool and Child Care for Working Mothers” draws upon the vast amount of evidence showing how higher child care costs have a negative impact on mothers’ employment. Mothers are more likely to leave employment and less likely to start new jobs when costs of child care are high. It is also difficult for parents to keep their jobs when they do not have access to consistent quality care. The prohibitively high costs of private child care and the lack of quality, accessible providers, however, are constant barriers faced by working parents looking to secure care for their children.
Most families currently have three options for securing child care. Parents can stay at home and provide child care themselves, which is increasingly difficult because most families now rely on two breadwinners to stay above water. Moreover, mothers are more likely than fathers to take time away from paid work to care for a child, which can exacerbate mothers’ lifetime-earnings gap. Second, parents can pay for child care out of pocket. This approach, however, is very costly for families, eating up 35 percent of a low-income family’s monthly budget. The third option for families is to use federal- or state-funded child care, but access to any publicly funded program, let alone a high-quality program, is very limited. The analysis explores the drawbacks, risks, and shortcomes of each of these options—especially how these limited choices negatively impact families and working mothers.
President Obama’s proposal to allocate $1.4 billion in 2014 to expand public child care services will not only reduce inequality and improve educational achievement, but it will also strengthen families and make them more economically secure. According to the CAP analysis, expanding access to pre-K would benefit children and their parents in the following ways:
- Only 6 out of 10 kindergarten programs in America are open for full-day enrollees. Increased funding for Head Start and child care subsidies together can encourage extended hours to better accommodate parents’ work schedules.
- Enabling more women to work by improving access to child care can help mitigate the gender wage gap and reduce a mother’s likelihood of going on public assistance.
- Lower costs and increased access to child care can lead to a decrease in the number of women leaving employment and increase the their rate of entering employment, enabling mothers to keep working when they want or need to do so.
Read the analysis: The Importance of Preschool and Child Care for Working Mothers by Sarah Jane Glynn, Jane Farrell, and Nancy Wu
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