In other news, the sky is blue
October 6, 2015 12:48 PM   Subscribe

Childcare costs on par or higher than rent is not a new story, it is well established that childcare costs have been skyrocketing in recent years.

Notably, more articles are implying that the rising costs of childcare are having a significant impact on women's participation in the labor force since 2008 (which regardless of corrections for the great recession has seen a trend down since 2000) .

The US already lags behind all other countries in paid maternity leave, and while there are a few cushy jobs with more lenient care policies, and Obama has pushed for incremental changes to parental leave, the majority of policies make no accommodations for parents with pre-school aged children.

So what is being done? for a hot second, childcare was a hot topic in the democratic primary campaigns, when Clinton unveiled her "New College Compact" to help parents in college complete their degrees. However, not much has been raised since. Both the Clinton and Sanders campaigns have worked some childcare policy into their general campaigns, but it remains to be seen if any of it will survive the general elections.


previously, general costs of raising a human
posted by larthegreat (74 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's so funny because all the kids care about is eating and all parents care about is instilling some degree of respect, discipline and general tiredness at the end of the day. I am sure we can come up with an inexpensive compromise?
posted by parmanparman at 12:55 PM on October 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah this issue really hits home. I'm in Victoria, British Columbia. We hire a nanny for when we're both working and we pay the nanny $16/hr for 2 kids ages 3 and 5 - it's about what we can afford at the moment. It's only really for our youngest, as the older one is in kindergarten 5 days a week. It's hard to find someone decent for that price, in part because it's hard work. Daycares are incredibly expensive - if we had both kids in a daycare full-time, it would be over $2000/month. That's serious coin.

I cannot begin to imagine what it's like for a single mother on minimum wage (or even making a decent 'living wage' of $18-20 as they say), trying to organize full-time daycare and participate in the job market. It's a giant disgrace that there is no proper subsidized child care for lower income people. I have thought about sponsoring a family in this regard somewhere down the line.

It's so funny because all the kids care about is eating and all parents care about is instilling some degree of respect, discipline and general tiredness at the end of the day.

Um, what? No. The kids develop a strong bond with the caregiver. What the kids want is to feel safe and cared for, and involved. What the parents want is to feel like they can trust the caregiver, and for the kids to be cared for and engaged. The caregiver wants to be treated with professionalism and with respect. We all want to trust each other and have a relationship that is productive and mutually agreeable.
posted by jimmythefish at 1:14 PM on October 6, 2015 [23 favorites]


Childcare is expensive but the owners of most of these places aren't making a whole lot. More than the poorly paid ECE workers actually taking care of your kids, but still not very much. It is definitely an area that is crying out for government support/intervention.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:25 PM on October 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yeah, it's hard to find who/what to point fingers at, here. The childcare center we use is nonprofit and Catholic and for that reason its fees are reasonable, but still not what I'd call "affordable." For 3 days/week of full day care we pay about $550/month. That's approaching a mortgage payment (for my city).

No one that works there is getting rich. The fees are just enough to keep the lights on and the staff (barely) employed. I just did my employer's United Way Day of Caring there, painting the walls, because they can't afford professionals to come and do it.

But you know Americans would freak out if someone suggested that we each pay a few bucks in order for all children under the age of 5 to have access to quality, affordable child care. But I don't have any children under the age of 5!!! Injustice! Freedom! Something something!
posted by soren_lorensen at 1:32 PM on October 6, 2015 [8 favorites]


My mother owns a childcare center. She makes about $30,000 a year after taxes, and she is the head honcho.
posted by all about eevee at 1:33 PM on October 6, 2015 [15 favorites]


Most of the overhead, at least in Mom's case, goes toward food for the kids (she serves two meals a day and a snack) and utilities.
posted by all about eevee at 1:36 PM on October 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


all about eevee:

Do you know what some of her largest costs are?
posted by jpe at 1:36 PM on October 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


The center I use does pack lunches, and parents provide one of the two daily snacks. On Fridays we can pay $1.50 and get the kids a slice of pizza.
posted by soren_lorensen at 1:40 PM on October 6, 2015


Yeah, I mean taking care of your children for a majority of their waking hours turns out to be damn expensive.

If you want to point at something, maybe point at a culture where both parents have to work but one parent is paid significantly less because they're a woman.

This is the same as healthcare and a lot of other things; America is set up to always trickle down the cost of not creating a decent society onto the people who can't afford it and (naturally) can't afford to bribe politicians.
posted by selfnoise at 1:42 PM on October 6, 2015 [22 favorites]


If there's a growing recognition of the economic value of traditionally undervalued caregiving activity like childcare, isn't it actually fairly natural that childcare costs would rise?
posted by weston at 1:43 PM on October 6, 2015 [12 favorites]


To be clear, I was in no way suggesting that daycares are price gouging. Quite the opposite. It's expensive, but that's just the way it is these days.
posted by jimmythefish at 1:43 PM on October 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is not just an American problem. We pay close to a hundred bucks a day for each kid in daycare. And that's govt subsidised. That's nearly all of one of our salaries in a week. Crazy stuff. The disincentive to work is very high.
posted by smoke at 1:45 PM on October 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


In 1972 we were just a Nixon signature away from having a national day care system. Instead he vetoed it. I first learned about it this year in a documentary about the feminist movement and it kills me that no one talks about it. We were so close and I had no idea.
posted by misskaz at 1:46 PM on October 6, 2015 [47 favorites]


What I wish is that we would create public preschool- and also allow parents who want to stay home the option of simply being subsidized the money for the first few years instead. Each family, parent and child has unique needs, some children need more one on one nurturing care than larger facilities can provide, and many parents would prefer to stay home with the kids for a year or two (or three) anyway.

I am both a single mom and work in childcare so I see both sides of this. Childcare is valuable and important work and expecting it to be cheap is wrongful to children and people who do this work alike.

Most people agree that young children need attentive nurturing care, I see a lot of young undertrained and poorly paid people working in childcare and the kids suffer for it when this happens. These teachers yell more, don't understand how children's minds and emotions develop or how to work with children without resorting to yelling, snapping, and creating patterns of "bad" behavior and teacher anger that doesn't help anyone involved. It's hard to watch but I also know that these are often people who never took any college classes in human development and don't have any or much experience with kids other than maybe, dropping out of college to care for them in stressful circumstances themselves.

I find it frustrating as someone who would rather stay home because I love my kids that we assume that single moms don't want to be stay at home moms as much as anyone else and that options we should provide them with need to assume they will be back to work within 3 months. That's too short a time to be forced back to work (though fine if moms WANT to go back then).

Like I get it's progressive to push all moms to work right away, and to point out dads can parent too, but it's not what I want and I think we need to remember that women's rights also includes women who like staying home with their own kids and don't feel empowered being forced not to or shamed for wanting structural supports to do so.

I guess I feel insulted that because I'm a nurturer I am forced to play this capitalism game where my care of my child is only valuable if I do it for someone elses child and then I need to do it for cheap.

Yes. Pay parents to care for children in the home the same as people working in the workplace. I don't see anything wrong with that. That way if a parent wants to stay home they can, if they want to work, they can trade with someone who is wanting to care for kids and trade pay.
posted by xarnop at 1:49 PM on October 6, 2015 [21 favorites]


This is far from an American only problem. Despite really family friendly policies where I work, most women with young kids choose to work part time, because of childcare costs.
posted by peppermind at 1:50 PM on October 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Quebec has had subsidised day care for quite a while(1997)
It was about $7/day per child, regardless of income.

This has just changed to an income dependent fee.

An income of $100,000 would pay $11/day
Income over $150,000 would pay $20/day

Quebec Day care daily cost
posted by yyz at 1:53 PM on October 6, 2015 [8 favorites]


If there's a growing recognition of the economic value of traditionally undervalued caregiving activity like childcare, isn't it actually fairly natural that childcare costs would rise?

I don't think there is any evidence that wages are rising commiserate with costs, though. Childcare is still grossly underpaid and I've never personally met anyone who appeared to be getting rich as a daycare owner, either.

I don't understand what is driving the costs of daycares up, and these articles never seem to address that question. Are child:worker ratio regulations drastically changing? Is it insurance costs? Increases in building utilities?
posted by geegollygosh at 1:56 PM on October 6, 2015 [12 favorites]


I mean, child care could be really, really cheap. The service provided would be really awful, though, and probably wouldn't include any meals or playground equipment at all.
posted by all about eevee at 1:57 PM on October 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Who is getting rich off of childcare? There is a river of money going into childcare but it seems like, as all about eevee says above, the caregivers aren't swimming in profits.

So the parents pay out the nose for childcare, and the childcare providers do not have money bins to swim in. Where is the money going?
posted by Elly Vortex at 1:57 PM on October 6, 2015


If you want to point at something, maybe point at a culture where both parents have to work but one parent is paid significantly less because they're a woman.

One where Corporate Profits Grow and Wages Slide.
posted by Celsius1414 at 1:58 PM on October 6, 2015


It is going into expensive insurance, government fees, food, supplies, and utilities.
posted by all about eevee at 1:59 PM on October 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


Are child:worker ratio regulations drastically changing?

Consider the source, but that certainly seems like it plays some part in it.
posted by jpe at 2:01 PM on October 6, 2015


You want cheap childcare? This is historically how cheap childcare has gone: “While the women attend to the vineyards, the infant remains alone…swaddled to a board and suspended from a hook on the wall…crying and hungry in putrid diapers. Often the child cries so hard it ends up with a hernia…turkeys peck out the eyes of a child…or they fall into a fire, or drown in pails left carelessly on doorsteps.”

THAT SAID, I'm no parent but I've done my share of nannying, and it is hard, hard, hard work. And should be recognized & compensated as such. For caregivers and parents, too (especially).
posted by witchen at 2:02 PM on October 6, 2015 [10 favorites]


I'd imagine finding healthy snacks that won't trigger a dangerous allergic reaction in some poor kid is a small factor in higher costs. Accommodating a range of dietary needs is neither cheap nor easy.
posted by peppermind at 2:03 PM on October 6, 2015


Jesus H. Christ, I knew childcare was expensive in the US, but I didn't know it was THAT expensive. For comparison, I pay 60€/month for my kid to go four hours a day, five days a week at my public daycare in western europe. At three years old kids start all-day school, which is 100% free if you go public.

I do pay a lot of taxes, though the money I would save by having a lower tax rate would not even begin to cover the cost of daycare if I had to pay it out-of-pocket.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 2:14 PM on October 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


> Who is getting rich off of childcare?

I would be very surprised if anyone is. I have been involved with the startup of a private school in New York, which isn't quite the same thing, but there are lots of similarities. It's really horrifying how fast expenses mount up.

For one thing, real estate. In NYC, it's really, really hard to find a space that is eligible to be a school or daycare -- safety and accessibility being requirements. Rent and other facility costs are high. Beyond that, you just start adding up how much you are paying each childcare provider and how many kids you are dividing it by. You have to get pretty big before you can afford even a part time non-childcare worker (administrator, etc). Nobody getting rich.

If you have a child care provider come to your home, or go to their home, OK, it's a babysitter co-op. 2-3 kids will cost $15-20/hour illegally or $25+ legally. The babysitter is not getting rich.
posted by bgribble at 2:16 PM on October 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


As a glimpse into the realm of the possible, consider Sweden. Sweden spends about 3.1% of GDP on benefits for children and families. Turns out this is less than the U.S. spends on the military. Spending choices have consequences.

In Sweden, parents get 16 months of paid leave after birth at 80% of salary, split between the two parents as desired. Up to 50 days paid pre-natal leave if the mother's condition and job prevent her from working.

They have universal high-quality childcare for children ages 3 to 6. The first 15 hours a week are free and additional hours are subsidized so that no one pays more than 3% of income up to a maximum of $165 a month. For children under age 3, at the end of parental leave, there are subsidies of up to $400 per month. Childcare is open 6:30 AM to 6:30 PM to allow for parents schedules.

There is no reason this couldn't be done in the U.S except for choosing tax cuts for the rich and corporate welfare for military contractors.
posted by JackFlash at 2:16 PM on October 6, 2015 [22 favorites]


In the UK, which has tried quite hard to create pre-school accessible childcare, a recent case involved two part-time police women and long-term friends who swapped childcare duties for each other's children. The trouble is, under the law, if you child-mind 'for reward' more than two hours a week away from the child's normal home, you have to be registered and regulated - and the regulator decided that 'for reward' covered getting free child care, so suddenly neither could afford to do it. Massive disruption.

This did get sorted out after a rather British fuss was made but childcare is infinitely more complex and expensive than it looks - unless the state decides otherwise (and even then...). Nobody else can make it happen well and fairly, at least not in the standard Western state model.
posted by Devonian at 2:22 PM on October 6, 2015


The disincentive to work is very high.

Even 16 years ago when my first was born this was the case. For my wife to find a job it would have been a wash in terms of actual extra income versus just staying home. In a sense it was good in that her choice wasn't coloured by the prospect of money, it was solely about what she wanted and what she felt was the right thing to do.

But unless you make a pretty high income, it's still a wash AFAIK.

All mothers are working mothers, it's just a question of which work you want to do during daylight hours.
posted by GuyZero at 2:39 PM on October 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


In my neighborhood toddler daycare runs about $55/day.

Dog daycare here runs about $30/day, despite there being almost no state regulations, no mandatory staff/dog ratio, no food, no health code, no mandatory training, no chance of a massive lawsuit, and no need for a safe well-maintained building.

I think the root cause is basically Baumol's cost disease. As prices for most goods and services decrease due to ever-increasing efficiency, those few things that really can't be automated or outsourced just get more and more expensive by comparison. Same with education, health care, and other inherently human services. On the positive side you can get a really cheap TV.
posted by miyabo at 2:39 PM on October 6, 2015 [15 favorites]


Oh, and I do think the state should subsidize child care. Not everyone chooses to have kids, but everyone does have to be a kid at some point in their lives, so it does really benefit everyone. I don't understand how the rhetoric always gets twisted to shaming those freeloading parents.
posted by miyabo at 2:42 PM on October 6, 2015 [19 favorites]


I don't understand how the rhetoric always gets twisted to shaming those freeloading parents.

I don't have kids but would happily pay taxes to subsidize childcare (though I'd prefer that in the process we made parental leave and other supports more available also), but that has literally never been on a ballot or a major electoral issue that I could support. It's not even to the level of blaming freeloading parents -- it seems to not be on the political agenda at all.
posted by Dip Flash at 2:48 PM on October 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


There's also the enormous number of the current generation of grandmothers who are now devoting their retirement years to full-time childcare for their grandchildren.
posted by aabbbiee at 2:51 PM on October 6, 2015 [11 favorites]


We live in the San Francisco Bay Area and we pay $1,080/month for daycare (full-time, 5 days a week). We love our daycare but I'm starting to look forward to not having the payment.
This is the Bay Area; that's not even close to our mortgage.
posted by kirkaracha at 3:07 PM on October 6, 2015


My goal for this decade of my life: Engineer an exit from the career treadmill while maintaining enough capital to handle health or household emergencies.

It is rank bullshit that in a society which has a machine to make 120 variations on fizzy sugar water, we can't figure out more variations on how to have a family without financial hardship, time hardship, or moral hardship.

Childcare labor is intensely critical, and in a just society, we'd be recruiting and compensating professionals with the same avidity coders get wooed by start-ups.
posted by sobell at 3:11 PM on October 6, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'm so incredibly lucky to have my daughter in a daycare that costs $100/week. They teach her some sign language and some Spanish and they feed her two meals and two snacks. But it does come with some pretty aggressive religious undertones, intensive fundraising, and I regularly have to provide paper towels, copy paper, soap, and hand sanitizer, as well as diapers, wipes, and school supplies.

I know I'm coming out way ahead of so many other people. I can't imagine how other people do it.
posted by Night_owl at 3:15 PM on October 6, 2015


Childcare/Montessori for our single child has routinely been at or near the highest single expenditure for each of her nearly 6 years.

It also played into our decision to only have a single child since the cost for high end childcare where the kids aren't being warehoused or a unlicensed childcare run out of single family home has always been insanely high (like between 1000-1200 a month). Simply put having another child would've required making some significant adjustments because the multiple child discount is often fairly marginal at most childcare places and when you get into the 2000-2400 a month range it becomes useful to just hire a fulltime nanny which the upper middle class can sometimes afford but damn that's crazy.

I think that's why increasingly I see families going to a single bread winner model until they can manage to put their kids into a public school but again that really advantages a certain type of family dynamic.
posted by vuron at 3:18 PM on October 6, 2015


I was transitioning careers when I was pregnant with my eldest.The high cost of childcare is the reason why I didn't go back into the workforce the year after she was born. We still lived in Seattle city limits and I was looking at jobs downtown, for the most part. Daycare would have been around $2000/month, and after taxes/insurance/commute costs I wouldn't have broken even.
posted by stowaway at 3:52 PM on October 6, 2015


Economic eugenics, I mean, social engineering through stratification, I mean, some people deserve more time to focus on their careers and efforts than others, because they don't make enough money yet. BTW, there's nothing more fun than being a stay-at-home mom (I am married to one and staying at home too at the moment) because it makes economic sense and then having your family members try to pawn their kids off on you because hey, you're just kickin' it anyway and they stiffed their regular sitter too many times and can't afford typical daycare...
posted by aydeejones at 4:02 PM on October 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well the better part is having the family member do it often enough that they insist on paying you, and you insist it's not necessary because you're not interested in creating some sort of arrangement, but after doing it enough times they tally up what they are going to give you some day and keep mentioning it and then suddenly stop and get all awkward, and you're like, I said I didn't want anything anyway, but I sure can relate to why your sitter dropped you.
posted by aydeejones at 4:05 PM on October 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Honestly, I think daycare is expensive because it's hard to provide quality care. It's labor intensive, there aren't really economies of scale, and there's evidence that poor daycare is worse than no daycare at all. So the best ones charge a lot (because they have too), and the mediocre ones match the prices (because they can).
posted by snickerdoodle at 4:13 PM on October 6, 2015 [7 favorites]



Just as long as we don't try to emulate Denmark. I mean it is almost impossible to become a billionaire over there. Who would want to give up that opportunity just to protect our lesser abled citizenry.
posted by notreally at 4:16 PM on October 6, 2015 [17 favorites]


What I'm concerned about, that isn't quantified as rigorously, is the long-term effects of incentivizing women to stay home.

It's similar to the case of a divorce in later life, for a woman - stepping out of the workforce makes it harder to reenter, and lowers wages for years to come.
posted by Dashy at 4:36 PM on October 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


And that is true for both genders, but more frequent and more mommy-track-penalty for women.
posted by Dashy at 4:39 PM on October 6, 2015


I don't understand why increases women's participation in the workforce (regardless of what these moms actually want) is innately good. Increasing CHOICE is good either to work or have access to support with the labor of childcare. But I don't really understand why it's a bad things if a lot of moms want to stay home.

Like if we made all options available and high percentage of moms choose to stay home, then... why is this bad? Why is this in itself held up as a measure of failing to have "gender equality" when it could be that a high percentage of birthing and lactating people will want to continue the bond they had through the birth and nursing years.

Couldn't we come up with better ways to help women have income and supports in the case of divorce or abuse situations than forcing them into a work set up they don't want?
posted by xarnop at 4:40 PM on October 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think providing systems where bullet-proof lifelong economic security is not tired to any form of out-of-the-home employment is even more pie in the sky than government subsidized early childhood education.
posted by soren_lorensen at 4:48 PM on October 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


My daughter's non-profit childcare is great - meals and snacks included, 4:1 child/carer ratio, great carers and the occasional entertainment (dance teacher and petting zoo for example). It also costs $26,000 a year of which we get $7,500 back from the government which is why we won't be having a second child until the first one is in primary school and have given up on ever buying a house. Even in two incomes there is no way we can pay for rent and childcare while saving the $100,000 minimum for a deposit. This probably doesn't contribute to the conversation but I do like to complain about it.
posted by Wantok at 4:57 PM on October 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Just got done spending 5 years on the night shift (with a half day shift on Sat. Morning so I could actually leave early enough to get the minimum 5 hours "you won't drop dead at 45" sleep) because it would have not been cost effective to get daycare so I could stay on the day shift. We're the rare case, my wife makes more than me so, sadly, it was never really an option for her to stay home.

Now, my son is in Kindergarten and I can work 4 hours a day while he's in school and 4 hours at night and no more weekends!
posted by davros42 at 5:05 PM on October 6, 2015


In 1972 we were just a Nixon signature away from having a national day care system. Instead he vetoed it.

Wow. That has to be one of the hugest what-ifs in American history. We are an entirely different country if that happens. I want to read a novel about that country instead of another 10,000 historical fictions about Hitler winning WW2.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:15 PM on October 6, 2015 [31 favorites]


Childcare at our local YMCA, where the facilities are pretty lackluster, the teachers are terribly underpaid, and it in no way compares to the fancy Bright Horizons and various Montessori-type programs in the area... costs $377/week for full time infant care. That's about $100/week more than it was when our son was an infant in the program 5 years ago. The already super high costs go up every year. Every time the kids move up to a classroom with a higher kid:teacher ratio that costs less than the step before, you think you're finally going to save a little money or pay those credit card bills, but then they raise the rates every year, so you never catch up. We were paying as much for his preschool class for 4 year olds last year as we paid for infant care when he was a baby. The teachers were making barely more than minimum wage and management was constantly messing with their hours and trying to hire part time people to avoid paying benefits. For at least a year, the teachers weren't given a budget for classroom supplies, so they had to buy their own or hope the word would quietly spread among parents so we'd donate some boxes of crayons and disinfectant wipes.

We're not having a second kid because the childcare costs would be financial ruin and the stress of being constantly broke would be too great a strain on our family. The math for staying at home doesn't work for me, we need my income to pay other bills, too, and I have better health care benefits. Also, I really like my job and I'm good at it, and I'd be a lousy SAHM mom. Like someone mentioned above, there are hidden costs to putting your career on pause- if I dropped out of my field for a few years I would never get back in, my skills wouldn't be up to date and the field is brutal. Also, I've had 5 years of 401(k) contributions growing that I wouldn't have if I wasn't working.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 5:20 PM on October 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


and I have better health care benefits.

god, how easy it is to forget about this*. When we had our kids we lived in Canada and thus our health care was more-or-less the same regardless of whether either or neither or both of us worked or not.

This is marginally better in the US now, but you still need to make money to purchase health insurance even if you can get somewhat affordable plans via exchanges.

there are hidden costs to putting your career on pause- if I dropped out of my field for a few years I would never get back in, my skills wouldn't be up to date and the field is brutal.

This, IMO, is why many women who could possibly afford to stay at home instead go back to work and spend all their earnings on childcare. The duration of needing childcare is shorter than the duration of your career. But that's based on a pretty middle-class perspective. For people who make a lot less money the situation is just brutal.

*until you have a major health issue which we didn't, but yeah.
posted by GuyZero at 5:25 PM on October 6, 2015


Oh, and I do think the state should subsidize child care. Not everyone chooses to have kids, but everyone does have to be a kid at some point in their lives, so it does really benefit everyone. I don't understand how the rhetoric always gets twisted to shaming those freeloading parents.

The kids are the future of the country. This is literal truth, not a cliche. There is nothing more important to invest in. This country succeeds when it's citizens are well adjusted and well educated and will fail if they are not. ESPECIALLY if you want to base your economy on technological innovations and global economic leadership rather than things like manufacturing and agriculture that rely more on established collected knowledge and labor rather than personal genius. Even if you believe in the self made man or woman, you have to realize you need to protect and help them until they are men and women instead of boys and girls! Yet, uggh. They don't. Nothing about conservatives annoys me more. Do you want that defense industry to be strong? Start cultivating the minds that will design that F-99 Stealth Drone Fighter TODAY.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:25 PM on October 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


In my home state of Idaho, and individual child care worker is allowed to supervise a maximum of six children under the age of two. The number of permitted children grows as they get older, up to 24 if they're all between 5 and 12. Idaho's not known for its strict regulatory regime, so those numbers are probably different and more strict elsewhere.

But if you want to put your one-year-old into a child care facility for 40 hours per week, you are going to personally pay for 1/6 of one worker's wages. So, if child care workers are to get a living wage, child care costs for under-twos must be at least 1/6 of said living wage. And that's before payroll taxes and other expenses, rent/mortgage/utilities on the building, the paycheck for any supervisory personnel, food for the kids, beds, and a thousand other things I could name. So it's probably closer to 1/3 of said living wage.
posted by Hatashran at 5:42 PM on October 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


One solution not discussed in this article is child care or preschool cooperatives. Reciprocal agreements among parents allow people to pay with their time/labor, not just money.

They also prevent child care from becoming a bureaucratized, commercial enterprise, which seems like a good thing.

I am fortunate to live in an area with several child care cooperatives, and my wife and I plan to use them, even though we are both employed, and we could probably afford day care (well, barely). Perhaps, in addition to subsidizing/running conventional childcare, the government could also subsidize such cooperatives.
posted by andrewpcone at 5:45 PM on October 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm in favor of more subsidies for this despite being a person who doesn't have children, but most of the people I see complain about this aren't actually poor. They're financially-comfortable couples where the women complain that it's not economically advantageous for them to work. I'm not super sympathetic to the fact that your family isn't going to have full the benefit of two high incomes instead of one. The poor just still want care that's up to minimum standards. It's a completely different world.

I don't see the problem at the more affluent level as being the cost of child care so much as the unequal expectation that the female half of a pair of heterosexual parents is the one whose work has to cover the cost of childcare and other related expenses completely in order for her to gain social approval to have outside employment. It should, otherwise, make perfect sense that if you want to purchase the parenting-quality equivalent of the care of a full-time affluent college-educated person, that this is going to cost something like what you'd pay a full-time affluent college-educated person. This might still be perfectly worth it if two parents both have careers they want to keep.
posted by Sequence at 5:50 PM on October 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


It really doesn't help that (for reasons well beyond the scope of this thread) men are mostly absent from the childcare workforce. Society simply doesn't pay jobs coded as feminine their true value both because of simple discrimination and because it doesn't recognize the value of emotional labor. One of the most amazing things about the emotional labor thread was that even on a site like Metafilter, a lot of us were shocked when we started to do the accounting on how much unpaid work is going on. You can't be great at childcare if you aren't a very skilled emotional laborer.

And yet, to lesser or greater degrees men have been doing that work for children alongside women since before the dawn of human civilization. This is a self imposed, idiotic problem to have. If nearly half of the qualified individuals aren't ever considering applying for the job, you are gonna have a bad time.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:35 PM on October 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


So, if child care workers are to get a living wage, child care costs for under-twos must be at least 1/6 of said living wage. And that's before payroll taxes and other expenses, rent/mortgage/utilities on the building, the paycheck for any supervisory personnel, food for the kids, beds, and a thousand other things I could name. So it's probably closer to 1/3 of said living wage.

I think this is the precise math that leads a surprisingly (to me) high number of the two-child families I know to hire a nanny rather than use a day care. I say surprisingly just because when I was a kid I didn't know anyone who had a nanny, and now I know a lot of people who employ one. My guess is that this comes from fewer one-earner/two-parent families, lower wages for child care workers relative to middle class salaries, and tighter regulations for daycares, including the child/carer ratio.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:13 PM on October 6, 2015


xarnop: Childcare is valuable and important work--

And that's really all that needs to be said about that, full stop.
--
I often thank God for the amazing people he sent our way when our kids were still going to daycare (before my wife stopped working). All the wonderful women and a couple of wonderful men who gave love and attention and patience to my kids when our situation demanded that one or both of us worked: we couldn't have gotten here without them. It's been a few years since any of my kids were in daycare, but I haven't forgotten. Yes, there were a couple of pretty bad places, and we moved on to better places as soon as we realized -- but on the whole, we were very lucky with the very high level of childcare we got. (Not free by any means, but I never hesitated to spend the money when I knew how well they treated our little ones.)

And I think every family in America should be entitled to the nurturing and educational care that my kids received.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:57 PM on October 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also: GuyZero: All mothers are working mothers, it's just a question of which work you want to do during daylight hours.

Amen.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:59 PM on October 6, 2015


fwiw, I am friends with someone who owns a franchised daycare center. 250 kid census, on avg, in a well to do part of the country.
They make a very comfortable living. Lower upper class is how I'd describe their standard of living.
posted by Fupped Duck at 8:41 PM on October 6, 2015


I think this is the precise math that leads a surprisingly (to me) high number of the two-child families I know to hire a nanny rather than use a day care.

Yeah, once my kids were in early primary school I noticed that a bunch of my coworkers had nannies. For the higher-earning ones it seemed like a no-brainer, I was surprised that people who I considered to be much closer economic peers were also hiring nannies. Some people got au pairs for the summer which seemed cheaper, but then one neighbour had some bad experiences after they got an au pair that was basically completely depressed after the novelty of exotic Canada wore off and they more or less ended up with three children for a while.

Anyway, on nannies there's a whole confluence of money and class factors at play. Most people are pretty matter-of-fact about it but I had one exec talking about how great Canada's caregiver visa class was and how they were flying to Singapore to interview a bunch of nanny candidates and it gave off the unpleasant vibe of someone going off to a slave auction. Which is a terrible way to characterize nannies who are just making a living regardless of immigration status or national origin. I gotta say I have trouble navigating the whole nanny experience from a cultural perspective.
posted by GuyZero at 9:26 PM on October 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


It varies hugely across Europe. Here in Ireland you could easily pay a grand a kid per month in the Dublin area, for full time creche.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 10:46 PM on October 6, 2015


I don't see nannies or even stay-at-home mothers as equivalent, or acceptable substitutes for high quality childcare. For instance nannies tend not to have degrees in early childhood education, and don't do any kind of professional development.

The preschool years are probably the most important in terms of education... ideally we (society) should be investing even more heavily in this than we do in primary/secondary school. The returns on this investment are massive.

Unfortunately childcare is still commonly seen as a babysitting problem, rather than an educational and economic opportunity.
posted by joz at 11:26 PM on October 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


I am fortunate to live in an area with several child care cooperatives, and my wife and I plan to use them, even though we are both employed

If you're both employed, who is going to donate the labor to the child care cooperative?
posted by KathrynT at 12:18 AM on October 7, 2015 [5 favorites]


For instance nannies tend not to have degrees in early childhood education, and don't do any kind of professional development.

Every area is different, of course, but around here, almost every nanny is a college girl earning money for a degree in, most often, early childhood development or education.
Nanny-sharing is a pretty popular thing in my town.

On the other hand, you would be hard pressed to find a childcare center with more than a couple of employees with actual degrees in childhood development.
The only ones I can think of that mandate that are the ones associated with the University which are difficult to access for non-University employees.
Very few of them are accredited, being mostly of the "at home mom looking after a few extra kids" variety or the "hippie co-op" variety.
posted by madajb at 12:37 AM on October 7, 2015


Oh shit, a degree in early childhood education, that's what I forgot to get before I had a baby!
posted by lollymccatburglar at 4:05 AM on October 7, 2015 [12 favorites]


"The preschool years are probably the most important in terms of education... ideally we (society) should be investing even more heavily in this than we do in primary/secondary school. The returns on this investment are massive."

Actually you know what's hilarious about this? We're also finding that in those critical years academic based programs are harmful to kids. What the child development specialists are learning is that patient interactive play and nurturing are what kids need, they actually need people specialize more in emotional development than mental development, and childcare centers tend to increase vocabulary but also aggression because if you're going to fill a room with 2 year olds they will be hitting and pushing and shoving and grabbing toys form each other unless you have a VERY low ratio of teacher to student.

Essentially, the more child and brain development classes I take, the more I am struck but the fact that center based care for under threes is likely NOT meeting their needs. We could probably offer moms and nannies online learning classes and improve their understanding of childrens emotional needs, but what the specialists are trying to teach center based teachers is often not actually being implemented because of limitations of class sizes and teacher stress levels. (They don't have TIME to sit down, nurture, hug, connect with, relate to the kids or love them and bond with them which isn't really how these programs are designed to function unless you've picked an alternative school that has created a model based on emotional development and bonding.)

Kids actually need to be parented, as in verb, during the day. They need real love and it's hard to design a for pay version of this that is real.
posted by xarnop at 4:29 AM on October 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


The kids are the future of the country. This is literal truth, not a cliche.

Oh god, this. People who don't want to pay for nurseries/childcare/schools because they don't have kids boggle my mind. You understand that's where other humans come from right? If you want to go and live in the woods and never interact with human civilisation or people ever again that's cool but if not we do actually need new people to keep society running, and it's best if they know how to read and count and stuff.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:49 AM on October 7, 2015 [7 favorites]


No one is getting rich on childcare. Like healthcare, education, and repair work, it suffers from Baumol's cost disease.
posted by OnceUponATime at 5:21 AM on October 7, 2015


People who don't want to pay for nurseries/childcare/schools because they don't have kids boggle my mind.

It's usually because they think that a parent should stay home, not that no one should have children. It's one of those "When you opened your legs, this is what you were signing yourself up for. Enjoy your 5-18 years out of the work force! It was your choice, so nyah." things.
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:16 AM on October 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


Every area is different, of course, but around here, almost every nanny is a college girl earning money for a degree in, most often, early childhood development or education.

Indeed every area is different. The Toronto stereotypically nanny is an older Filipino woman. The joke is that there a thousands of white Toronto kids growing up speaking Tagalog as their first language. But that's just the stereotype of course and there are nannies from all over. I don't think I ever heard of one that was a college-age one though.
posted by GuyZero at 7:58 AM on October 7, 2015


It's one of those "When you opened your legs, this is what you were signing yourself up for. Enjoy your 5-18 years out of the work force! It was your choice, so nyah." things.

Totally this. It's a cool combo of sex-negativity and, in many cases, the complementarian view of household labor and gender roles. Which is to say: any work a woman does that's not homemaking, it goes against the fundamental Way It Should Be As Decreed By A Narrow Reading of the Bible. So in subtle ways, influential believers of this will support and perpetuate whatever it takes to encourage more women to stay in their place.
posted by witchen at 8:19 AM on October 7, 2015


I'm a software developer. I make right around the average for my field in my area with my level of experience, which according to those percentile calculators puts my personal income around the 90th percentile, and without any additional income from my wife would put our household income in the top quarter of all households. We're not struggling to survive.

Nonetheless, despite having a mortgage that's within the guidelines that personal finance experts suggest, we don't have nearly enough money to support a child (much less day care) without my wife working. She has a graduate degree and was on a good career path before health problems kept her from working for several years, and she's just now felt good enough to start freelance writing, but that's obviously not the kind of work that's going to tip the balance in favor of us having the money to pay for day care. Obviously she can stay at home to offset the cost of daycare, but you still need to pay for the kid's food, clothes, diapers, college, etc.

We watch our spending very closely and try to save money where we can. We've cut down on vacations, this year doing some small road trips instead of things involving airplanes and hotels. Still, we're just basically breaking even each month.

I should also mention that we've chosen that if we do have kids we're going to adopt, which means sky-high adoption fees in addition to everything else.

And we're the lucky ones. If a well-paid white male software developer can't be the single breadwinner in a family and have enough money to properly care for a child, who can? And even if my wife does manage to get her career back on track, get more writing gigs, etc. how could that possibly make up for the cost of caring for children while she's working?
posted by tonycpsu at 3:18 PM on October 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


As a glimpse into the realm of the possible, consider Sweden. - JackFlash
I don't understand how the rhetoric always gets twisted to shaming those freeloading parents. - miyabo

Sweden doesn't overall have so much political grumbling over freeloading (except notably when immigrants are involved). Still, systems like sick leave, unemployment compensation, and other kinds of direct welfare are considered benefits for the individual more than the collective - they cost tax money and the payout amounts are up for discussion. Those systems are there to keep people out of misery.

The tax-funded parental leave has a somewhat different character. It doesn't merely serve to redistribute funds to those who are in need. Since parts of the support can be ear-marked for each parent, it also works as a tool to improve gender equality, both in the generation that's parenting and the one that's getting parented. I wrote a comment about that here.

Then when it comes to public daycare, the balance between direct public interest and public cost gets even more favorable, to the point where free-loader aspects are out of the equation. Now the motivation isn't even necessarily to shape society in the long term, as it is with the parental leave. That can be a nice side effect, to help children of parents with different levels of education and income intermingle and get prepared jointly for school. However, affordable daycare is motivated on purely economical grounds, also by politicians on the fiscally conservative end of the spectrum who otherwise like to cut taxes and expenses. The economic gain of having parents (mothers) participate fully in the workforce just vastly exceeds the cost of running the system.
posted by Herr Zebrurka at 6:52 PM on October 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


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