Childcare is a wise investment for every state –


Policy experts are constantly looking for high impact investments that deliver the maximum societal benefit for every dollar spent. There is ample evidence to indicate that investments in child care are one of the most prudent investments a government can make and that they also have one of the greatest impacts on society.

It is therefore not surprising that efforts are now underway to increase investment in early childhood care and education in the United States. Despite the highly political discourse on child care, the evidence and research on the economic benefits of investing in child care is impossible to ignore.

Let’s take a look at some of the most compelling evidence showing the effectiveness of good quality child care, and why it’s a wise investment in every state.

The need for investment in child care

It might surprise you to learn that the United States is ranked by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development 30th out of 33 member countries in public spending on children and families. This includes investments in parental leave, childcare and family allowances.

Not only that, the nature of America’s investments in child care has been less straightforward. Much of the investment for children and families has taken the form of tax breaks, which can often be less accessible because they require a solid working knowledge of the overly complicated US tax code. This is different from many European countries, including the UK, Denmark and Sweden, all of which focus on cash and in-kind or service-based benefits for children and families.

In addition, research conducted by the Pew Research Center as part of a global survey of 41 countries shows that the United States is the only country that does not have a national policy on paid parental leave. Needless to say, the data shows the United States lags the rest of the industrialized world when it comes to investments in children, families, and social programs.

The response to the global COVID-19 pandemic has made this problem even more glaring, putting many families under financial and economic pressure. The disruption of children’s school hours has placed low- and middle-income families, in which both parents often work, under special pressure. Many of these working-class families have had to spend more than they could afford on bloated daycares, which charge high prices while paying extremely low wages to their workers, just to keep their households together.

The economic impacts of investments in child care and early learning programs on children

Numerous studies show that investments in child care and early learning programs improve children’s learning outcomes, test scores and future employment. This is true despite a lot of misconceptions circulate on the child care industry.

A controlled experiment in North Carolina, called the Abecedarian Project, showed that early childhood education and child care programs led to very important learning outcomes for decades to come. The experiment showed a 1.8 level increase in reading achievement for students and a 1.3 level increase in math achievement. He also showed a 4.4 point increase in overall IQ and 4.2 points in verbal IQ.

The Abecedarian Project also documented powerful improvements in life outcomes by the age of 21. Students who had been enrolled in preschool education programs were 22% more likely to be enrolled in a college program aged 4 to 21 years. They were 20% more likely to work in skilled jobs, preparing them for future financial success.

Students who had been enrolled in early childhood programs were also 19% less likely to become pregnant as a teenager. This cohort also had a statistically significant reduction in crime compared to students who were not enrolled in early childhood programs. At age 30, study participants who benefited from early childhood programs were four times more likely to have graduated with a bachelor’s degree.

The Perry Preschool study, another experiment on the effects of early childhood programs, found that these programs led to improved academic performance, including higher scores in reading and math on standardized tests. Good quality daycare and preschool programs have the power to improve students’ academic success for years to come.

Economic effects of investments in child care

Investments in child care not only improve children’s learning and life outcomes, they also have positive effects on the economy as a whole. Some economic studies suggest a return on investment of $ 2 for every dollar spent on these programs. Other studies suggest that this return on investment could reach $ 7 for every dollar invested.

A study by senior economist Timothy Bartik of Purdue University showed that for every dollar spent on early childhood programs, property values ​​in the area increased by $ 13. This link with improving property values ​​stimulates local housing markets by attracting home buyers to the area.

Early years programs save elementary and secondary schools money by reducing repetition. Schools save resources because they do not need to re-educate students who have been withheld a grade.

More generally, strong evidence suggests that early childhood programs reduce incarceration rates, arrest rates, and the likelihood that populations will need government assistance in the future.

Investments in child care have a myriad of benefits for the economy, for children, to new parents, and the standard of living of a population.

The importance of child care for mothers and families

The child care crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic has had an extremely damaging impact on mothers. Women who were once proud to be the breadwinner were forced to stay at home, costing their careers dearly, while their children attended distance education.

This New York Times article details the stories of many women who have been forced to put their careers on hold due to the pandemic-induced child care crisis. Among those mothers are Jennifer Park Zerkel, who was forced to quit her tutoring business, April Williams, who was forced to quit her job as a newly promoted supply chain manager, and Leah Torres who quit. to a lucrative business career.

In 2020, for the first time, women represented more of the workforce than men. Within months, this monumental progress was reversed. Today, only 56% of women work for pay. This is the lowest level since 1986.

Investments in child care have the potential to empower women, family units, children and society as a whole. The evidence showing the outcomes of learning and life in children cannot be ignored, regardless of their political affiliation. Lowering costs and improving the quality of child care programs through ambitious investments will help support the economy and families.

Sandra Chiu works as Director at Ladybug & Friends Daycare and preschool.

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