Making the Case for Affordable Childcare

Good-quality daycare helps disadvantaged kids—and can help us all

Preschool students using finger paints on poster.

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It’s widely known that among developed nations, the U.S. struggles to keep up with its peers on paid family leave policies. This is a shame, but there’s a bigger issue we need to address. That issue is finding everyone the good, affordable childcare we all dream about finding for our kids.

If we’re going to delegate our childcare to someone, we want our children to learn something, be well-fed, and have their health and well-being prioritized. Unfortunately, there’s a good chunk of us in the U.S. who either can’t afford this kind of care or who are barely making ends meet, putting a third of our salary toward childcare.

But there’s hope! Affordable, good-quality daycare is becoming a hot issue. People like Ivanka Trump are advocating for it and college professors are studying it. Here’s what they have found out and how good childcare could positively affect us all.

Research Results

If the U.S. instituted affordable daycare, child poverty would decrease. If children experience a good-quality education, starting from birth, the U.S. would benefit economically and socially, according to a study led by Professor James H. Heckman titled “The Lifestyle Benefits of an Influential Early Childhood Program.”

In Professor Heckman’s research, boys and girls who came from disadvantaged families enrolled in the study’s free, good-quality childcare program. From infancy to the age of 8, Heckman and his colleagues studied the children’s educational advancement, emotional intelligence, and home life as well as their families' atmosphere and finances. Then at 12, 15, 21, and 30, the study subjects' education, finances, and emotional well-being continued to be monitored. At 35, the study reached out one last time to perform a medical survey and a criminal background check.

Professor Heckman discovered that “every dollar spent on high-quality, birth-to-five programs for disadvantaged children delivers a 13 percent per year return on investment.” What this means is that if the U.S. government funded this program, the future monetary payoff would be big.

There were other payoffs discovered, too. The children in the study were healthier and led a good life. They were better educated and better employed and brought home a higher salary. These children were less likely to be involved in criminal acts because they were good people in our society. Last, but not least, the children’s mothers were able to earn a bigger paycheck because their kids were in this program.

Effects on the workplace could be vast and far-reaching:

A Shakedown in the Workplace

The pay gap would close up pretty quick if working moms were able to work better. With affordable, good-quality childcare, moms would stress less about the well-being of their child and the cost associated with that.

With capable, competent daycare, women may not suffer from mommy tracking or “the motherhood penalty.” This means motherhood wouldn’t count against them during their hiring process. How people view moms would change. They'd be seen as competent and committed to their work. published an article about how U.S. economists should be concerned about working moms. Childcare is a big barrier for working families to face. If there were affordable childcare, fewer women would leave the workforce and would continue contributing to the growth of the U.S. economy. Paid leave and work flexibility would help, too, but good childcare would be the icing on the cake.

Safer and More Fun Schools

When children have good-quality daycare, they learn to get along well with their peers. Imagine what the world be like if we didn’t have to worry about bullying.

From the study, we learned those who received affordable, good-quality care developed into better-mannered children. When they grew up, they had a greater chance of treating their wives or husbands better and were less likely to be charged with domestic violence. That meant their kids were better off.

There could also be less drug abuse because people use drugs to escape their problems. With affordable childcare, parents would be able to work harder, earn more money, and provide a better upbringing for their child. Their reality wouldn’t be one they’d want to run away from. This would benefit all children because there would be fewer drug dealers on the block.

A Better-Educated Workforce

Fast forward 30 years, after affordable, good-quality daycare is implemented. More-competent and better-educated workers would be in the office. These good-mannered individuals would be easier to work with, motivate, and promote.

Office drama could become something of the past. These well-supported adults would have higher emotional intelligence and wouldn’t waste their time and energy with office politics. At a young age, these adults would have learned how to get along with others. They would have grown up outside of poverty. Instead of gossiping and experiencing jealousy, these adults would focus more on teamwork and success.

Professor Heckman's study teaches us that a better future starts with helping those less fortunate than us. And there’s data that prove it. Imagine the trickle effect everyone would experience if the U.S. decides to invest in our children’s care.