18 January 2012

Guest Blog: Affordable Child Care Yields Social and Economic Benefits

Ms. Foundation for Women grantee All Our Kin authored this guest blog post about the substantial economic and community benefits of access to reliable, high-quality child care. Please join All Our Kin Jan. 19 at 9 a.m. at the Yale Club of New York City for a presentation and discussion of the University of Connecticut’s study on the economic impact of child care. Click here for more information and an event flyer.

By Shannon Hill, All Our Kin

Recently, in an interview with Melinda Henneberger, Nancy Pelosi remarked that next on her agenda is “the mother of all women’s issues: child care.” She lamented that she had never been able to find a babysitter, and that everywhere she goes women are talking about how hard it is find the kind of reliable care that would enable them to be more productive workers. When it comes to “unleashing women” in a way that would boost the economy, Pelosi said, “[child care] is the missing link.”

According to a new study conducted by the University of Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis, Pelosi is absolutely correct - investing in early childhood care and education is the missing link. It not only supports women who need access to child care in order to work, but creates jobs for women, who constitute the majority of child care providers in the United States.

The University of Connecticut study looked at an innovative child care licensing initiative implemented by Connecticut-based nonprofit All Our Kin. All Our Kin’s Tool Kit Licensing Program helps family child care providers become licensed and empowers them with the resources and skills they need to run a successful small business and provide high-quality child care.

By increasing the availability of flexible, affordable, high-quality child care, the program enables more low-income parents to work; the study estimates that for every child care provider licensed through the program, four to five parents entered the workforce.

It also increases the earning potential and quality of life for family child care providers. Sixty percent of family child care providers who became licensed through the program earned $5,000 more the first year after getting licensed, and forty-five percent of providers earned at least $10,000 more the second year. Fifty-five percent of providers used their increased income to pay down debt, forty-two percent opened a savings account, thirty-one percent moved to a larger apartment or house, and twenty-four percent bought or leased a car. Moreover, fifty percent of the child care providers went on to achieve either an Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education or a Child Development Associate credential.

Through its impacts on both providers and parents, the Tool Kit Licensing program generated $18.4 million in additional tax revenue and $15.2 million in gross regional product (GRP) between 2006 and 2009.

In total, the University of Connecticut study found that for every $1 spent on the Tool Kit Licensing Program, $15-20 are returned to the economy in terms of gross regional product (GRP).

That is a significant economic impact, and the findings reify something many feminists have long known: that child care is a job issue, a matter of economic justice.

Lack of access to reliable, high-quality child care makes it more difficult for parents – especially mothers - to hold or find jobs, particularly when the jobs they have or need are during nonstandard hours (forty percent of Americans work some form of nonstandard hours). And the high cost of child care, coupled with the fact that many parents have lost their child care subsidies due to state funding cuts, means that many parents cannot afford child care while they look for work or work low-wage jobs.

But parents shouldn’t have to choose between the economic survival of their family, and the safe, healthy development of their children.

It is critical that economic development and recovery plans, which have focused heavily on male-dominated industries such as construction and banking, include women and children. It is critical that these plans include family child care providers, not just because family child care providers care for the majority of our most vulnerable infants and toddlers, but because investing in them gives parents the support they need to work and has the potential to boost our economy.

It also provides our children, the workforce of tomorrow, with the educational foundation they need to succeed in school and in life. Children in high-quality early childhood education programs are less likely to be held back, drop out of school, go on welfare or commit crime. According to studies, every dollar invested in early childhood education today saves the public eight dollars later.

When that figure is combined with the immediate economic impact, it is easy to see that investing in our children, and the women who teach and care for them, really is the best of investments: the social benefits are enormous and the economic return rate is high – both today and for years to come.