Why is it that in the United States it is not abnormal, and even expected, that people are not able to afford all the living costs for their family? Why is it that parents are expected to figure everything out on their own regarding taking care of their family and ensuring all their essential needs?
I grew up as the older sister to a younger brother being raised by a single mom. Since my brother and I are only four years apart, educational stressors were back-to-back for her. Growing up in Connecticut, I understood the importance of education and the outlets it can afford. Finding after-school care for myself and affordable childcare for my younger brother was a yearly struggle due to her work schedule not aligning with the end of my school days. With the help of family members, she was able to make it work; but not without having to compensate them monetarily. After all, Connecticut is the third most educated state in the U.S. The state of affordable childcare back in 2004 was just as unstable as it is now. Connecticut childcare facilities’ open availability does not match it affordability.
One would think that this would be at top of the list for policy makers. There are children across the United States who, like me, had to see their parents struggle financially just to ensure that their children receive a safe space to stay and a proper education. A recently passed social policy bill calls upon the government to expand their spending on childcare. The most significant aspect of the bill is the addition of $400 billion that would work to support children and their families.
Did you ever think you would see a time “When Childcare Costs Twice as Much as Mortgage?” Yeah. Me either. In Greensborough, N.C. parents are stretching themselves financially trying to send their children to daycare. Daycare costs are at an all-time high with facilities costing the same or more than their mortgages while understaffed schools have teachers earning low wages. Although the primary issue is the struggle to make sure parents can pay for childcare, concurrently teachers are struggling to make a living. According to Jason DeParle of the New York Times, President Biden’s administration is working to pass social policy legislation that “would cap childcare expenses at 7 percent of their income, offer large subsidies to childcare centers, and require the centers to raise wages in hopes of improving teacher quality.” Within this legislation is a an additional $200 billion that would go towards providing affordable childcare.
Nothing good comes cheap, if it does, it never lasts.” This popular phrase can be viewed as the slogan for those who oppose affordable childcare and view it as a possible injury to the economy. Affordable childcare and public preschool would require $16 billion more dollars subsidized that would work to neutralize the U.S. Treasury’s budget while still leaving more than enough to support tax proposals and charitable deductions. However, those like West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin argue that the government should not be putting up as much money as they are proposing. Additionally, they worry that the funding would not be used properly.
Most families consider location, quality of education, and operating schedule when looking into childcare for their children. Yet, low-income families often do not have the freedom to do so as others. Let’s note the demographics of the families most affected by this financial burden. Black and Hispanic families spend about 11% of their monthly income towards childcare in comparison to white, Asian, and non-Hispanic white people spending 9-10%. Some may say that race has nothing to do with it. However, to argue that race does not play a role in the situations that some of these family’s face would be an egregious mistake and displays ignorance regarding the racial foundation the United States was founded on. Being that most minority families fall within the working-class category it unfairly subjects them to spending a higher percentage of their earnings.
Understanding the impact pre-school and childcare have on children beyond the classroom is integral towards fighting to improve these conditions. Child development either flourishes or faulters depending on the child’s experience. High- quality preschool and kindergarten have been shown to be beneficial in adulthood; especially for Black and Hispanic individuals. Social and emotional developmental skills are nurtured within the framework that quality educational and care facilities provide. What does quality mean? It means ensuring teachers earn a livable wage, ensuring parents can afford these facilities, and fostering a conducive environment for not only their learning, but to develop as well.
For the United States to be as great as it claims to be we must show a genuine desire to be committed to improving the conditions of unaffordable childcare and demonstrate it through implementing policies to do so. President Biden’s policy and the recently passed bill is a step in the right direction.
Bailey Hyland of East Windsor is a senior at Trinity College, double majoring in Psychology and Women & Gender Studies.