Want to Make Child Care Cheaper and More Accessible? Deregulate It.
Aug. 16, 2018
The push for federal subsidies for child care is gaining momentum. Ivanka Trump has urged Congress to pass a tax deduction for child-care expenses. During the 2016 presidential campaign, both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders proposed new federal preschool and child-care programs. And recently, one commentator even advocated opening federally subsidized care centers nationwide.
The concern is understandable. According to 2016 data compiled by Child Care Aware, the average annual cost of full-time center-based infant care varies dramatically nationwide, from $5,178 in Mississippi to $23,089 in the District of Columbia. That amounts to 27.2 percent of median single-parent family income in Mississippi and fully 89.1 percent in D.C. Such high burdens not only have a crippling financial impact on poorer families but can make it uneconomic to work and pay for child care at the same time.
Yet none of the proposed solutions to costly care would make it cheaper. They would simply transfer the high costs to taxpayers. A better starting point would surely be to ask: Why is child care so expensive? One important answer, it turns out, is state-level regulation. Staff-child ratio rules and worker-qualification requirements, in particular, increase prices and reduce availability, particularly in poor areas. These are things state legislators can do something about.
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