Who’s minding the kids? Warren pushes universal childcare

Who’s minding the kids? Warren pushes universal childcare


Presidential elections are decided by many things: media exposure, financial backing, personal chemistry, timing and luck. Policy positions often are just a way of signaling where a candidate stands on the political spectrum. But 2020 is shaping up to be different, the most ideas-driven election in recent American history. On the Democratic side, a robust debate about inequality has given rise to ambitious proposals to redress the imbalance in Americans’ economic situation. Candidates are churning out positions on banking regulation, antitrust law and the future effects of artificial intelligence. The Green New Deal is spurring a debate on the crucial issue of climate change, which could also play a role in a possible Republican challenge to Donald Trump.

Yahoo News will be examining these and other policy questions in “The Ideas Election” — a series of articles on how candidates are defining and addressing the most important issues facing the United States as it prepares to enter a new decade.

THE PROBLEM

Childcare options in the United States are expensive. In more than half the states in the country, a year of daycare costs more than a year of in-state college tuition, according to a study by New America published in 2016. An estimated 12 million children under the age of 5 are in need of such care, but at an annual cost ranging from $6,615 in Arizona to $19,805 in Washington, D.C., it has become unaffordable for 7 in 10 American families. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services advises that childcare should be no more than 10 percent of a family’s budget, which would require an income of $175,000 to pay the average national cost for two children. Poor families are likely to make do with cheap, unregulated, low-quality options.

There are consequences to the crisis. Americans cite the cost of childcare as the reason they don’t have more (or any) children, and it is also the primary reason women drop out of the workforce. Low-quality childcare also puts low-income children at a permanent disadvantage in life. The years before kindergarten are when the architecture of the brain develops, and children who do not receive adequate care and stimulation at that age will never catch up.

THE HISTORY

In the face of a genuine national emergency, World War II, the U.S. government did something it never did before or since: create a national network to care for the children of women who worked in defense plants. The Defense Housing and Community Facilities and Services Act of 1940 funded childcare centers in communities with defense industries, charging as little as the current equivalent of $10 a day, and the proportion of women in the workforce rose from 28 percent to 37 percent by 1945.  READ MORE