Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren announced her game-changing Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act, which will attempt to make child care affordable for every family in America. The program will offer free childcare for the lowest earners in the country while charging the rest of Americans based on a sliding scale. In her announcement, Warren framed childcare as a right, not a privilege, that the United States ought to guarantee to its citizens. “The guarantee is about what each of our children is entitled to. Not just the children of the wealthy, not just the children of the well-connected, but every one of our children is entitled to good child care.”
When my kids were little, I struggled to find good, reliable, and affordable child care. It felt like an impossible task then – and it still is for many families. That’s why I’m proposing a new plan for #UniversalChildCare. pic.twitter.com/95soeZa5wx
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) February 19, 2019
Warren’s plan would be government-funded with revenue from her proposed “wealth tax,” but it would also be a revenue generator on its own. “The proposal quickly lifts economic growth, as the stimulus created by providing financial support to lower-income and middle-class families more than offsets the negative fallout from increasing taxes on the very wealthy,” concluded an analysis. Universal childcare, theoretically, will increase the spending power of lower- and middle-income families by reducing the cost of childcare as well as allowing parents — especially mothers — to work more hours and generate more income.
Childcare in America Today
Additionally, Warren will raise wages for childcare workers. Childcare workers are some of the worst paid employees in the nation. A piece in The Atlantic from several years ago reported that childcare workers are “more likely to be minorities, much more likely to be women, and less likely to have a bachelor’s or advanced degree,” and earned 23 percent less than their peers in other occupations. Ironically, childcare workers cannot afford childcare for their own children.
Low wages ultimately diminish the quality of childcare and are likely the reason why the child care industry experiences an extremely high rate of turnover at about 30 percent. “We’re seeing the lowest enrollment in our community college programs for early education. And I think it’s all attributable to low wages,” said the executive director of the North Carolina Childcare Coalition in an interview with NPR. The effect that low-quality care has upon infants and toddlers, who are in critical stages of development, is immeasurable.
The cost of childcare differ from state to state, with the higher range of annual bills hovering around $10,000 per child (if not more) and the lower end about $6,000-$7,000. The cost of child care has become so daunting that 64 percent of young Americans named it as a reason that they decided to delay or not have children, according to a New York Times survey from 2018.
A piece in the New Republic pointed out that making childcare more affordable will exacerbate the issue of accessibility to child care by increasing the load on the system, nearly doubling the amount of children enrolled in childcare programs over the next ten years. Currently, about half of American families live in a community where the number of children far outnumbers the availability of open slots in childcare facilities. Warren has suggested that offering child care providers a living wage will help expand the workforce to offset this shortage of workers.