Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has proposed a plan for universal child care that would cap child care expenditures at 7 percent of income, and families earning less than about $51,000 annually would receive child care for free. The program is expected to cost about $70 billion a year and would be funded by a wealth tax.
Maria Fitzpatrick, associate professor of policy analysis and management and the director of the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs, is an expert on family policy. She says research backs up Warren’s efforts towards broader access to child care, but adds policymakers should pay attention to the quality of child care – not just its affordability.
“Millions of Americans do not have convenient access to affordable, full-time, high-quality child care. That has important consequences for both parents and children, and for society more broadly. Without access to reliable affordable childcare, parents, in particular mothers, will have difficulty working. In fact, research has shown that many women see their careers ‘stall out’ once they have children in ways that men’s careers do not. This is driven in part by the difficulty of juggling the demands of both work and child-rearing.
“Research has also shown that children, particularly those from low-income and those from rural areas, benefit a lot from the universal availability of high-quality child care experiences. Also, research from Canada has shown that universal child care policies can have unintended negative effects on child development when the program’s initial rollout does not pay close attention to the quality of care being provided. Therefore, it will be important for policymakers to ensure that any new program provides children with truly high-quality care.”