Childcare in America is very expensive. Presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren—you guessed it—has a plan for that.
Depending on where they live, the average US family can spend up to 36% of their income on some kind of formal childcare arrangement for their children. According to Moody’s, “the typical household that has childcare expenses spent $7,200 per year, equal to approximately 10% of their income.”
The high cost of childcare exacerbates existing social and racial inequalities, dividing kids as young as three or four years old between the haves and the have-nots. Research shows that high-quality preschool programs can have a hugely beneficial impact on little kids. The first five years of a child’s life are the most important in a child’s development, so stimulating, high-quality, and loving care during that time can boost a child’s outcomes later in life—that is, if their parents can afford it.
And it’s not just cost that puts early childcare out of reach for many parents; it’s also availability. Many communities in the US don’t have enough licensed childcare facilities to meet kids’ needs. A recent report by the Center for American Progress (CAP) found that 51% of Americans live in “childcare deserts.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, availability of childcare also falls along racial and income fault lines: According to CAP, “Hispanic/Latino families disproportionately reside in child care deserts” and “families in rural areas face the greatest challenges in finding licensed child care.”
In February, Warren became the first 2020 presidential candidate to lay out a comprehensive plan for achieving universal childcare. The Universal Child Care and Early Learning plan would use Warren’s proposed wealth tax on those worth more than $50 million to create a network of federally-funded but locally-licensed childcare centers and preschools. Those childcare settings would have to follow strict quality standards, and workers and teachers’ pay would increase. Most importantly, the services would be free for any family making less than 200% of the federal poverty line. For families who make more than that, the cost would gradually increase but be capped at 7% of their income, significantly less than what most families pay now.
“All these changes would almost certainly raise both the quality and the cost of American child care, but Warren’s idea is to have the government bear those costs (especially for low-income families),” writes Sarah Kliff in Vox.
Along with her plan, Warren has now released an easy-to-use tool that will help you calculate how much you could save on childcare costs under her new plan. All you have to do is tell it where you live, how much you and your household makes, and whether you have or expect to have kids under five years old. Try it for yourself.
This story is part of How We’ll Win in 2019, a year-long exploration of workplace gender equality. Read more stories here.