Washington, D.C. — Today, more than 100 leading economists released an open letter calling on Congress to make long-term investments in America’s child care and early learning systems. The letter comes on the heels of the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor passing a historic investment in child care and universal preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds.
Citing the threat to maternal labor force participation and economic growth, the economists write: “Since the 1990s, child care costs in the United States have grown at twice the rate of inflation. In the intervening decades, we’ve seen American women’s labor force participation stagnate and the U.S. transition from being a leader to a laggard in women’s labor force participation. Child care access is strongly associated with maternal labor force participation, and child care undersupply leads to costly career sacrifices for women. All told, it is estimated that the child care crisis costs the United States $57 billion a year.”
The letter also raises concerns about the tremendous financial burden that child care can be for families: “More than half [of Americans live] in child care deserts, [and] … a recent analysis … shows that the typical working family with a child under five spends about $13,000 per year on child care. Lowering child care costs for low- and middle-income families, who can spend between 14 and 35 percent of their income on child care, can relieve the financial pressure on families while promoting better long-term health, educational, and civic outcomes for children.” The group’s concerns about affordability are particularly troubling, as they note that the “median child care worker only earns about $12 an hour and roughly half of child care workers relied on public assistance to make ends meet.”
Finally, the economists underscore the need for action now, writing: “In 1971, Congress passed bipartisan legislation to establish a national system of locally administered child care. … Unfortunately, President Nixon’s veto of the Comprehensive Child Development Act set the country on a different path, one in which child care has become a major household expense. Fifty years later, we are at a pivotal moment in which policymakers can finally make lasting, necessary changes to the child care system to reduce these long-standing economic inequities.”
Please click here to read the letter and list of signatories.
For more information or to speak with an expert, please contact Colin Seeberger at gro.ssergorpnacirema@regrebeesc or 202-741-6292.