State of the Union – Child Care as a National Priority
“Let’s make sure working parents can afford to raise a family with sick days, paid family medical leave, affordable child care. That’s going to enable millions more people to go and stay at work.”
—President Joe Biden, 2023 State of the Union
Early care and education continues to be unaffordable and inaccessible — and this is a national crisis. Consider these facts:
- A new report from the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that infant child care in counties with more than 1 million residents costs $17,171, which is up to 19.3% of family income
- Center-based child care for infants costs more than in-state public college tuition in 34 states
- College students who are parents of young children would have to work an average of 52 hours per week to cover the costs of child care and tuition at a four-year public college or university in the U.S.
- Families got some financial relief with the 2021 expansion of the Child Tax Credit, which cut child poverty nearly in half. Black and Latino families, families in rural areas, and single-parent families were among those who benefited most. However, Congress failed to extend this expansion at the end of 2022, moving an estimated 4 million children back below the poverty line
- Even when families do have the resources to afford child care, there often isn’t a program to attend because of the sharp attrition in the early care and education workforce, which especially affects women of color
Long before the COVID-19 crisis, families in the U.S. have faced inadequate access to high-quality early care and education, and especially families of color and families from low-income backgrounds. That’s why Ed Trust was pleased to hear President Biden address this crisis head on in The State of the Union, which is a rare moment for the nation to step back and consider our nation’s biggest, most cross-cutting issues. And the child care crisis cuts across economic and educational spheres, with voters across the political spectrum supporting a comprehensive federal solution. There are plenty of reasons why: The economic toll of inadequate child care has more than doubled in the past five years to $122 billion last year in lost earnings, productivity, and tax revenue. Nearly one-quarter of primary caregivers recently polled reported being fired from work due to problems with child care. Due to systemic structural inequity in educational and economic systems, the pandemic’s economic toll has been especially difficult for families of color. Black and Latino families of young children faced greater financial and material hardship during the pandemic than their White counterparts, even among families with middle and upper incomes.
The Biden administration developed the most groundbreaking early care and education legislation in decades with the Build Back Better Act. Congress failed to pass it, but as Biden noted in the State of the Union, the momentum remains. Several states have made significant strides in improving access to high-quality early care and education in the face of the pandemic’s aftermath. The major federal investment that Biden called for in the State of the Union can amplify these efforts across the country and ensure that the powerful effects of high-quality early care and education are sustainable.