Why you should care
Because child care is an urgent problem — for the country, and for the GOP.
Lauren Claffey is a managing director at Hamilton Place Strategies. She previously served in the Department of Homeland Security during the Trump administration and as an adviser to Republican members of Congress.
Young women are thriving in the Trump economy. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, full-time female workers ages 25-34 saw their weekly earnings increase nearly 7 percent from the first quarter of 2017 to the fourth quarter of 2018, far outpacing growth among other women and workers overall, both of which hovered around 4 percent. Trump era wage gains for 16- to 24-year-old women also jumped more than 10 percent.
Although their ascent started two years prior to Donald Trump taking office, it is under his administration that young women have seen the greatest gains. Many are entrepreneurs: From 2017-2018, women launched 1,821 new businesses a day, according to an American Express survey. At the same time, however, Trump continues to struggle with women — millennials in particular — in opinion polls. For women to maintain these economic gains and stay in the workforce, policymakers need to do more — specifically, on child care. If they do, Republicans can help close the all-important gender gap in 2020.
The support around these solutions is mind-blowing.
Millennial women, compared to previous generations, are putting off having kids in favor of staying in the workplace. Why? Anecdotally, we have heard that women feel financially insecure and like they need to save more in order to afford children. And no wonder: giving birth in the United States costs $31,000 on average. And new data shows the annual cost of infant care takes up more than half of a millennial’s median salary.
Beyond just having a child, lack of access to quality child care impacts economic mobility for American women. According to a Chamber of Commerce report, 70 percent of nonworking poor adults with young children say taking care of their family is a reason they are not in the workforce. Additionally, recent polling finds those making more than $100,000 per year are just as likely as those who earn less than $40,000 per year to say that only some or few programs near them are affordable and high-quality.
This isn’t sustainable. While some companies have caught on that providing child care options for employees increases productivity ($57 billion is lost annually in earnings, productivity and revenue as a result of a lack of consistent child care, according to ReadyNation), there also needs to be taxpayer-friendly solutions for people who aren’t so lucky as to work for such enlightened employers.
Ivanka Trump has championed these issues inside the White House, and her efforts were reflected in the president’s budget proposal for the next fiscal year. However, presidential budgets are nonbinding, meaning Congress needs to seize on the opportunity to heed the administration’s call for $1 billion in funding for child care.
The Child Care and Development Block Grant is money that goes straight to the states to increase the availability and affordability of child care. This program ensures more children from low-income families have access to high-quality programs and providers, enforces health and safety provisions and provides training and professional development for teachers and staff to support child development. It has been hugely successful in the states (just look at Louisiana) and the program needs additional funding so it can make a bigger impact on women’s lives.
Congress also needs to work with state governments to develop strategies for increasing supply and quality of services for children in underserved areas, infants and toddlers, children with disabilities, and children in nontraditional hour care. It’s unacceptable that approximately half of Americans live in “child care deserts” — neighborhoods or communities with little or no access to quality child care.
The support around these solutions is mind-blowing. First Five Years Fund (FFYF), a bipartisan federal advocacy organization, says 84 percent of people support providing tax incentives to businesses that provide or help their employees afford quality early childhood education programs. FFYF also says 81 percent support increasing federal funding to states to create or build on their own programs that directly help low-income children and 81 percent also support increasing the child care tax credit to help parents better afford quality child care and early education programs.
As for members of Congress, FFYF found that “supporting policies and funding for quality early learning” made voters eight times more likely to have a favorable opinion of their representative, and more than 25 percent say “early childhood education is a primary factor” in earning their vote.
Heading into 2020 and beyond, it should be a no-brainer for Republicans and the Trump administration to support women in the workplace and encourage healthy and happy families. Let’s not allow the economic gains millennial women have made to go to waste. Let’s support working women by enacting meaningful solutions to keep them contributing to the economy. Real solutions may just mean real votes for Republicans in the next election.
Read more: Yes, you can be a conservative feminist.