Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Social Magnitude of Affordable Child Care

Last March, I promoted Children's Time Preschool - a "non-profit, private co-operative preschool, which means the parents are the owners and operators."  Children's Time is having a Fall Open House this Saturday, October 26, 10:00 a.m., at Magill's Common Meeting Room Parking Lot, 10025 Shaker Drive, Columbia, MD 21046.  I continue to think this is an interesting creative idea to address one of our society's most important social goods - affordable day care.

This is a (surprisingly) controversial topic that often falls down a rabbit hole of "If you can't afford to have kids, don't", which I think is horribly short-sighted and ignorant of the limits of biology.  But let's give a go nonetheless.

When young couples have their first child, they are often confronted with two choices about day-care: the "philosophical" choice and the real choice.  The "philosophical" choice is whether or not one of them will work from home and whether that is good for the child's upbringing, moral character, and self-esteem.  They will weigh career and family, compare anecdotal stories about child-rearing, and gender equality (especially with my generation).

Then, about a trimester later, they will make the real choice.  Looking at the cost of day care and balancing it against a lost salary, they couple will decide what they can afford to do.  For a great number of young adults, that calculus barely crosses the threshold of making more sense to keep two jobs and pay day-care than the alternative.  Here in Maryland, couples pay an average of 8% of their combined income on day-care and that's good by comparison.

But when the choice is made that one of the two parents will quit their job, it is most often the woman; no longer due to gender roles, but rather due to regular dollars and cents.  The Pay Gap is real and it plants its ugly roots at this point in a couple's lives, regardless of their progressive views. 

The real tragedy of this is the longer lasting effects.  Ending, or even pausing, a career in your late twenties/early thirties does not just remove that second income at present, but also the future increases in income and professional advancement that could be presumed from continuous employment.  This is one more cog in the Wealth Gap machine.  If you have greater wealth and can afford child care, dual income earning is presumed into perpetuity. 

And what I've described is just for our middle income couples.  Child care needs for low income families and single parents plays an even larger role in their economic mobility.  Imagine that same calculus as above, but remove the choices, increase the financial burden on the individual, and make it life or death.  For these parents, having a child cemented their station in life.

I will not suggest that child care is a "right" or that the government has an obligation to manufacture affordable child care, but I will note that society as a whole is diminished by the absence of efficient means of caring for our children.  We all lose when women are compelled to leave the workforce.  There are many nonprofits like Children's Time that should be examined and promoted to make sure our families have more of a choice in how they approach this decision.

That's all for today.  If you haven't already, please consider RSVP'ing for my next campaign event on November 5.  I am very excited about this event, which will be held at the Howard County Historical Society Museum.  If you haven't been there before, which I would presume describes the majority of you, this is a great chance to take in Howard County's history, hear some great music, sample great wine, and learn more about my campaign.

Have a great Wednesday doing what you love!