from a personal responsibility to a public good
April 5, 2021 12:09 AM   Subscribe

Anne Helen Petersen's latest piece for Vox, in her series on "the hollow middle class," is April 2's One weird trick to fix our broken child care system.

[...] any lasting solution to our current crisis demands a shift in our thinking when it comes to accessing high-quality early childhood care: from a personal responsibility to a public good. If you have children, this shift will directly benefit them — but it will also benefit you, as their parent, and whoever else’s mental and financial load is lessened as a consequence. It will benefit employers, who, as the pandemic has shown, rely on their employees having access to reliable care. It will benefit their coworkers without children. And, for countless reasons, it will benefit the caregivers themselves, providing a pathway into the middle class, but only if we transform ECE work into a “good job.”

There’s a pretty straightforward way to do this: Pay early childhood teachers like public school teachers. Providing quality care is expensive. It just is. In fact, it is too much for individual families to bear — just like hiring teachers to provide care for K-12 students would also be too much to bear, and is the reason we have a publicly funded school system. Even if you don’t have children, you can see the benefits of a public school system. The same should hold true for a publicly funded care system, in whatever form that might take.


[Petersen's process for developing, researching, and writing this article is detailed in today's Culture Study newsletter post, Behind the scenes of a 5000 word draft.]

Anne Helen Petersen previously on MetaFilter.
posted by Iris Gambol (33 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
 
While it's not quite as egregious here in Toronto as it apparently is in the U.S., this is definitely a familiar feeling. The waitlist situation here is grim, and my wife and I often joked that it would have been good if we'd had the foresight to sign up for these things, not just before we were expecting, but possibly before we met.
posted by mhoye at 6:51 AM on April 5 [13 favorites]


My mom worked many years as a teacher's aide in day cares and preschools, teaching other people's kids potty training, manners, their letters and numbers, and a million more basic skills their parents needed them to learn, always at a wage within a single dollar of the legal minimum.

Literally every bit of the economics of it made her mad. How much she got paid. How much it cost parents. That moms couldn't work unless they got this care. That it was always the moms whose jobs hung in the balance. That she knew she had real skills at this (seriously, my mom was The Toddler Whisperer) but she couldn't get a decent wage at it, even though everyone agreed it was important work.

I'm gonna send her this article and I'm gonna be fascinated to hear what she says.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:03 AM on April 5 [44 favorites]


Unmentioned in this excellent article, probably because it goes without saying, is that the most important years of human development are arguably the earliest years. The pre-K years.

Having raised one child, I agree with the experts on this point.

Pay well those who love, care for, and teach the toddlers!
posted by kozad at 7:12 AM on April 5 [12 favorites]


This article touches a bit on a recent shift in my own thinking. Since my job is primarily about simplifying and easing people through bullshit, my tendency is to say, when looking at systems, "How can we make this easy/simple enough for somebody with little training to be able to do it (subtext: cheaply)?" when in fact... realistically... I would like everybody involved in (x,y,z, childcare!!, etc) to be as highly educated as they would like to be! And paid a thriving wage regardless.

It would be great to see some discussion/enumeration on "signs/symptoms of a healthy system" when we look at issues like this and, for example, the problem of SUVs getting safer / more prevalent while pedestrian deaths go up. What does success look like? What should we be aiming for? Then I remember that these are wicked problems and, honestly, these things probably ARE enumerated in a journal somewhere, and I don't have the brain capacity to read them any more.
posted by snerson at 7:21 AM on April 5 [1 favorite]


This is because a lot of people want women home watching the kids.

Anything that makes childcare, cooking, cleaning, or other "domestic work" less burdensome is a problem, because it encourages women to leave the home and enter the workforce, or at least the public domain.

I work for someone who literally wouldn't let a daycare lease space in his strip mall because he didn't believe in daycares, because he didn't believe in working wives or mothers.

Horrific, but the lack of childcare or nutrition or housing support is due to misogyny. And there will always be a lack and a burden until misogyny is addressed and at least mitigated, if not cured.
posted by nowadays at 7:22 AM on April 5 [67 favorites]


When my kid was a toddler, I went back to work part time and split my pay check with the neighbor who was watching my toddler. When I had to go back full time I found a place wasn't the "desirable" white-collar day care someone with my privilege should aspire to. My neighbor and those matter-of-fact people who took care of the kid were miracle workers, and so was the neighbor who provided after-school care when my kid was in elementary school.

Were they brilliant professionals? Nah. I was getting my master's in education at the time and I knew all too well what their flaws were. But they made my life possible, they were good to my kid, and it's why during the pandemic I podded with the grown-up kid to take my grandchild twice a week.

Because twice a week is bloody hard when you're dealing with a toddler, even if like me you have a master's degree and a Ph.D. in education and thirty years of experience with young children. People who provide child care deserve a boatload of money.
posted by Peach at 8:09 AM on April 5 [13 favorites]


My feeling about this is that there is a mathematics issue at the bottom of it. Every person who works and pays someone else to look after their kids needs someone who is willing to accept lower wages than they themselves make.

If you have five parents who each make 30,000 a year, and they each use the same in-home day care provider and pay $5,000 a year for child care, they each end up with the same amount of money, $25,000 at the end of the year. But as soon as the in home day care provider has a kid of their own they have to drop one of their clients to look after their own kid and are only making $20,000.

The base mathematical figures boil down to each parent needing to make enough money to support themselves and subsidize another person. No matter how you tinker with your figures you end up with income inequality. All the historical solutions to childcare - slavery, older kids looking after younger, women not working while husbands get higher wages, recent immigrants who will work for less, the poor relation, grandparents retiring to look after the kids - has someone who is looking after the kids and not having an equal income to the working parent.

Every society does the best we can, but kids end up with substandard care and people at the bottom of the scale cannot afford to have children. There is a reason that so many kids live in poverty. Having kids is the single thing you can do most likely to push you below the poverty level. It reduces your income at the same time as it introduces greater expenses. When you have a baby you get to pick between buying formula and paying for a caretaker, or not working and staying home to nurse.

"Just pay daycare workers more" is a good idea. It's never been the idea that is lacking, but the implementation. The flat out truth is that the majority in any society do not want this because they are not parents and do not like other people's kids. You have to change society a lot before they do want this. The lower the birth rate gets the more it turns into a theoretical good, that becomes a lower priority behind all the other initiatives that cost social capital, as fewer and fewer people have actual direct emotional contact with the problem.
posted by Jane the Brown at 8:37 AM on April 5 [21 favorites]


When my kid was a toddler, I went back to work part time and split my pay check with the neighbor who was watching my toddler.

Depending on your paycheque, that was a really good deal. When I had a nanny (up until my kids respectively hit the over-18 mons threshhold for getting a space in my Toronto area), I was making $51k/yr or a bit more than $24/hr.

I was paying my nanny $15/hr plus bus pass, with proper overtime (over 44 hrs/week was time and a half), which meant I was paying her for ~10 hrs a day as my commute was an hour each way - my husband swung his time a bit but we also needed communication time, etc. End result was her pay + bus pass was about $825/wk and mine was $960 (those are both gross-to-employee, I won't even get into taxes which resulted in a greater negative income situation for me), but because of my own commuting costs I was, on a post-tax basis, in the negative every month.

Once I had two kids and a group situation ($1900/mo per young child all in meaning food, before/aftercare (noting that commute time again), and Montessori) my take home pay was a bit more on the school months, mostly because my older son was in public school (we had to pay full time care + after school care + transportation to after school care).

In both cases there were definitely less expensive options, so I had some choice - but not awesome choices if I wanted to support living wages, which I did. Other than a subsidized space the cheapest option in my area was home daycare...which is a huge boon to parents who need it but I wasn't ok with all the aspects of it.

But in the summer the fees for both kids to be in camp + aftercare or daycare was greater than my take home pay, especially the year I missed Parks and Rec registration by 4 hours because my child was throwing up. And that was assuming either my husband or I could get Christmas break/March Break off and if not, we had to pay for camps that week too.

We always calculated on a household basis, but we had negative years where we were dipping into savings for me to work.

Jane the Brown, $5,000/yr is not a fee I have seen anywhere for childcare but your point is good.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:47 AM on April 5 [4 favorites]


My feeling about this is that there is a mathematics issue at the bottom of it. Every person who works and pays someone else to look after their kids needs someone who is willing to accept lower wages than they themselves make.

That is why the entire point of the article was that child care should be publicly funded as a public good, just as K-12 education, roads, transit, parks, libraries, etc. The benefits to society are worth the cost to taxpayers.
posted by hydropsyche at 8:51 AM on April 5 [45 favorites]


I agree with Petersen's solution. Kids are perceived as a luxury option though. I feel like non-parents don't get the math though, and that's important for the public good argument.

And that's ok, I didn't either. I honestly thought "I am making over $50k/ year and our household income is solidly over $100k so I'm sure it will be fine." And yes, we had choices but - they were not as broad as they looked. Home-based daycare in my area at the time had a year's waiting list through agencies, if you didn't happen to luck into a situation locally.

In our case, and look I am not complaining and am privileged, but to frame it for the middle class reality of it: The years my husband and I were both working full time and had young children were the years that our disposable income was at the level that I put things back on the shelves at the grocery store because we were on a strict cash budget and I couldn't afford lactose-free cheese and coffee in the same week.

Again, this wasn't real poverty at all, but it wasn't something I got until I was there. We'd always kept our debt low and based our basic expenses on one income - we're not frugal wizards but we aren't that spendy. I've figured out since then that other people who look like they are spending all the same money as we were either have cash infusions from their parents or have re-upped their mortgages. Again, choices, but we hide them and then this looks sustainable.

I mean yes, at some point we did the math more precisely, but before I was really into the personal equation I really did kind of think that paying for childcare was more an issue for poor people or single parents, and here in Canada I thought that subsidies would largely address that and we would be fine. It was hard to be fine.
posted by warriorqueen at 9:34 AM on April 5 [16 favorites]


Ah, the magical thinking that mothers should be staying home with the kids (breeding the next generation of peons) while dad works 2 jobs at minimum wage. Apparently adequate food, housing, and basic health care are not important. Two Americas--the rulers and the ruled. The lower classes do not need an education to work in service.
posted by BlueHorse at 9:44 AM on April 5 [3 favorites]


Warriorqueen makes an excellent point that before you have kids, it's easy to think that paying for childcare was more of an issue for "poor people or single parents." I'm another one of those middle-class women who were pushed out of the (paid) workforce by the high cost of infant/toddler childcare. My husband and I were open with friends and family about the costs but didn't harp on it. Then a couple of years later when my husband's male friends started having kids they were SHOCKED, SHOCKED I TELL YOU that infant daycare is over $2k/month in our city. The only people I know who have been able to pay those kinds of daycare fees are couples where both earners are in highly compensated jobs (think, doctor & software developer pairs), not just merely middle-class. Mostly everyone else I know, it's the woman who has stepped away from paid work, or in a couple of cases there are grandparents who are providing part-time care for free. (There also seems to be a generational shift -- it seems like a not insignificant number of grandparents are not willing/able to pitch in with regular childcare.) Winter/summer care is also expensive and hard to arrange (see above about day camp spots filling up within hours of registration opening). Even occasional low-cost babysitting is hard to arrange. The responsible teens are so busy with academics and extra-curricular activities in order to gain entry and scholarships to college. Women are doing more with less social support. Combine that with the lack of investment in our schools and opportunities for young people, it really feels like our society just doesn't care about children.
posted by stowaway at 10:27 AM on April 5 [8 favorites]


I live in a semi-rural area and am constantly telling expectant mothers to get their names on waiting lists for daycares NOW, because if they wait until the child is born or LATER, they will not have a spot. It's incredibly frustrating that we even have to do so, but it's just as frustrating to hear a coworker complaining about how they come back from mat leave in a month and don't have anywhere for baby to go because they *just* started looking. Don't even get me started on the cost.
posted by checkitnice at 10:43 AM on April 5 [1 favorite]


...it really feels like our society just doesn't care about children.

I think society cares about children, it just doesn't value the toil that goes into creating them.

It takes a village to raise a child, they say. Well the village is gone, but here's a small cash supplement! What, you're not thankful?
posted by Alex404 at 11:20 AM on April 5 [4 favorites]


Pay well those who love, care for, and teach the toddlers!

Including parents.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 11:55 AM on April 5 [3 favorites]


As a non-parent I've had a hard time wrapping my head around just how expensive and scarce preschool and daycare options are around here. I looked into the cost of the preschool I attended at the local Y, and even adjusted for inflation, they're now charging 400% to 700% of what my mom paid for me to go there. Full-day care (9 a.m.-6 p.m.) five days a week clocks in at well more than half of median household income, and thousands more than the cost of tuition, fees, room, and board for an out-of-state student at a state university. It's possible that the increase in costs is the result of fairer wages, but I doubt that's the whole story.

This might be an ignorant question, but I'm wondering how, in addition to fully funding professional childcare, parents would feel about having the option of paid leave to cover regular shifts at a childcare co-op, or of kids being better incorporated into or welcome in adult life.

There have been a few times where parents brought their kids into the office or along on work trips and I got to see my coworkers organically step up to help out, trading off throughout the day, and it seemed kind of...good? Parents had time to attend meetings or get work done, while coworkers had an excuse to take breaks throughout the day and an opportunity to be kind and nurturing at work. I realize it's kind of a pipe dream, and that parents find value in having an adult-brain-only space in which to get stuff done, and that a whole lot of workplaces aren't safe for kids to be milling about, but the experience really drove home how weird and artificial our office environment ordinarily is, the fact that it doesn't necessarily have to be like that, and that communal care might be possible.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 11:58 AM on April 5 [1 favorite]


Maybe it's so obvious as to be trite, but I didn't see it in the article, so...the connection to declining birthrates is also obvious - the US is below replacement already, and has been declining for a decade (COVID's making it worse, of course). If that's not a national security issue, I don't know what is.
posted by Mogur at 11:59 AM on April 5 [2 favorites]


Childcare is hideously expensive, yet "[c]urrent compensation levels leave many early childhood teachers living in poverty, often relying on public assistance programs": Where Does Your Child Care Dollar Go? Understanding the True Cost of Quality Early Childhood Education (Center for American Progress, February 14, 2018)
posted by Iris Gambol at 12:25 PM on April 5 [6 favorites]


Part of me wonders if the enormous burden we place upon parents (e.g. expensive childcare) stem from intentional policy decisions with Malthusian motivations.
posted by grokus at 1:12 PM on April 5 [2 favorites]


Grokus I think COVID has shown us just how little some people care if "those people" suffer or die.
posted by emjaybee at 2:12 PM on April 5 [1 favorite]


>If you have five parents who each make 30,000 a year, and they each use the same in-home day care provider and pay $5,000 a year for child care, they each end up with the same amount of money, $25,000 at the end of the year.

This is true as long as you are considering only families with pre-school children.

Just for example, partner and I have managed to have two separate pre-school-child periods of 5 years each. But . . . our working lives are going to be something like 50 years.

Putting it another way, in 2018 there were 17.5 million U.S. households with pre-school children out of 127.6 million total households. That gives us around 14% of households with pre-school children and 86% without.

So maybe for that 5- or 10-year period when a particular family, the situation is a losing proposition but overall--over an entire lifetime--it certainly isn't. Similarly, for the 14% of households currently with a pre-school child maybe the economics doesn't work but when you consider all 100% of households the situation is vastly different.

That is the kind of solution Peterson is proposing: Finally we give up on the idea that this is a problem for households with pre-school children to solve on their own, and admit that it is the sort of problem that can only be tackled at a societal level.

With that single insight, the problem goes from intractable to completely tractable.
posted by flug at 2:29 PM on April 5 [14 favorites]


> the connection to declining birthrates is also obvious - the US is below replacement already, and has been declining for a decade . . . national security issue . . .

I'm always a bit puzzled by the fact the the conservative end of the U.S. political spectrum hasn't picked up on this a lot more than they have.

Like if the birthrate is below replacement levels, the only way to make up that shortfall and keep the country running (particularly as the middle class and above would like it to) is via increased immigration. You can have a nice (or more likely, not-nice) discussion about whether or not you like immigration on philosophical grounds, but if the birthrate is that low then increased immigration becomes well-nigh inevitable.

And the basic reason that people aren't having more children is because they flat-out can't afford it.

It seems like a policy to far, far better support households with young children would be incredibly pro-family and pro-pretty-much-all-the-other-things-conservative-claim-to-stand-for (including national security, the economy, and all the rest--particularly if you are the party that supports and ever-growing economy as the only possible future) and yet for some reason they just can't seem to go there and support it.

Of course, we know the ultimate reason here (probably has something to do with the reason women make far less than men do in more religious states and countries), but at some point you would think that practical considerations would win out over theoreticals.
posted by flug at 2:40 PM on April 5 [3 favorites]


a shift in our thinking...from a personal responsibility to a public good.

This would help with a lot of things! Unfortunately, the "society doesn't exist" mentality seems well-entrenched.

Unpack the concept of "personal responsibility" sometime, and look at the work it is doing (when it isn't just moonlighting as a formula of evasion and practical guarantee that no amends will be made for a wrong that a politician or other public figure says they take "personal responsibility" for).
posted by thelonius at 3:08 PM on April 5 [2 favorites]


childcare from birth to kindergarten now costs more, in most states, than four years of state college, and state college's cost has FAMOUSLY shot way way way way way up to a point where it's totally unaffordable for working people to pay tuition.

So basically, the first five years of your kid's life, you're paying an entire college tuition. While probably still paying off your own student loans. None of us are ever going to retire.

"This is because a lot of people want women home watching the kids."

I see less of this where I live now, but a lot more of upper-middle-class professionals in two-income families (doctors, lawyers, accountants, consultants, bankers) who did everything right -- maybe even graduated without any student loans! -- and have a lower standard of living than their parents did as a one-job family where the one job was "middle management at a factory" or something like that. And they slogged through college and graduate school and got good jobs and are struggling to keep up with housing costs and child care and barely see their kids between the commute and the hours. And they will be damned if their own kids don't have every advantage in the world so they can regain that lost standard of living -- or at least keep their parents' -- and one of those advantages is "other parents can't afford childcare at all."

(I mean obviously not all of them -- I run with a local progressive parents group, including some people who are radical AF -- but you do see people who desperately don't want the playing field leveled because even with the desperately unfair playing field we currently have, it's hard as hell for the winners to get true economic security.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:30 PM on April 5 [3 favorites]


I'm an early childhood educator working with infants. I make $11/hour. My center does not offer health insurance, PTO, paid holidays, or any other paid perk you could think of. I have some medical needs where insurance is a big ass deal. If I worked full time, I could barely afford crappy insurance. Thus, I work part time to keep my gross income (and gross is the word to describe it) low enough to qualify for medicaid. I'm getting SNAP benefits. I'm lucky enough to live with my dad and help care for him so i don't have to worry about a roof over my head right now.

We are looked down upon by people. We must have so much fun because we play with kids all day. Let's talk about the kids who come to my center not having had dinner the night before. Let's talk about the kids who are in kinship care because their parent(s) can't care for them. Let's talk about the kids who are showing signs of abuse. Let's talk about the kids with behavioral issues or anxiety/depression/ADHD. Let's talk about the elementary school teacher who told me I'm not a real teacher because I don't work in K-12 education.

And then there is everything on top of working with the kids. I have to do CE to keep my job. I have to do assessments on my babies every 2 months to make sure they're developing properly. I have to write a lesson plan every week using the curriculum my center choose (even if it's a pile of crap). I have to write goals for each child every month. I have to communicate with parents who can't come into the center. I have to write notes on each child everyday and enter them into the state's portal so we can keep our Step Up to Quality rating. I have to maintain a portfolio of my babies' work (mostly art). And most of this I can't do on the clock. I bring home work every weekend because I can't get it done during the week.

I have my MA in developmental psychology. Illness made it impossible to complete grad school and give up my dream of doing infant research. The 0-5, and especially 0-3 years are so important. There are a couple kids in my center in the preschool who aren't talking and can't get in person services because of COVID restrictions. Those kids are going to be even worse off.

The state of Ohio royally pissed me off with the vaccine rollout. The CDC and the vast majority of the country put childcare workers in phase IB. Not Ohio. And when we spoke out about it, we were told that we might not even be put in IC. I'm on a preschool teachers group on FB and it was heart breaking the number of post from providers who were offering things for sale because they had to shut down their home based or center based programs. I guess we made a big enough stink because we were included in IC. I get my second dose tomorrow.

I love my job. I really do. I have the pleasure of watching babies go from blobs I have to take complete care of to independent little people with their own personalities and thoughts. I get to see rolling over to sitting to walking to running and climbing. I get to see grunting to babbling to talking. But the way people, and especially our government, view us makes me crazy. Let childcare shut down for 1 week and watch the country shut down too.
posted by kathrynm at 6:47 PM on April 5 [28 favorites]


"Just pay daycare workers more" is a good idea. It's never been the idea that is lacking, but the implementation. The flat out truth is that the majority in any society do not want this because they are not parents and do not like other people's kids.

Really? I would bet a lot of money that many—heck, I’ll go so far as to sat most!—of the politicians and lobbyists who have squashed every initiative for nationalized daycare/better wages for daycare workers are, in fact, parents themselves. Statistically, it’s entirely likely. I also think there are a lot of non-parents who can see, and care about, the impact lack of affordable child care and low wages for child care workers has on society in general. I don’t think not being a parent has anything to do with it.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 7:02 PM on April 5 [5 favorites]


at some point you would think that practical considerations would win out over theoreticals.

Have you met people?
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:19 PM on April 5 [1 favorite]


Daycare does not create value that can be instantly harvested by billionaires. So it's worthless in our current system.

Talking about making it a public good along the lines of "public parks or sanitation or libraries or public schools" blithely ignores the well-funded, relentless efforts to privatize those things, and the sizeable chunk of the electorate easily provoked to apoplectic rage at the very thought that someone not them (and likely darker-skinned) might get free stuff from the government.

None of this is going to work until we can flush this toxic antisocial thinking from our system.
posted by panglos at 10:22 PM on April 5


Kathrynm, I'm sorry you're dealing with all of that, but glad that you're finally getting your second vaccine dose.

For what it's worth, even the idea of "playing with kids all day" sounds exhausting, let alone trying to teach them and help them hit developmental milestones along the way. It sounds like a very high-stakes game of Lemmings, only with way less-predictable movements, a whole lot more bodily fluids, and a bunch of parents to answer to. There's no way in hell I could do it, and you should be paid a lot more than that.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 10:46 PM on April 5 [2 favorites]


My feeling about this is that there is a mathematics issue at the bottom of it. Every person who works and pays someone else to look after their kids needs someone who is willing to accept lower wages than they themselves make.

If you have five parents who each make 30,000 a year, and they each use the same in-home day care provider and pay $5,000 a year for child care, they each end up with the same amount of money, $25,000 at the end of the year. But as soon as the in home day care provider has a kid of their own they have to drop one of their clients to look after their own kid and are only making $20,000.

The base mathematical figures boil down to each parent needing to make enough money to support themselves and subsidize another person. No matter how you tinker with your figures you end up with income inequality. All the historical solutions to childcare - slavery, older kids looking after younger, women not working while husbands get higher wages, recent immigrants who will work for less, the poor relation, grandparents retiring to look after the kids - has someone who is looking after the kids and not having an equal income to the working parent.


Two things:

First, the reason to do this as a public service funded by taxes is to spread the cost over everyone. Obviously this doesn't solve the fundamental economic issue of society having to pay for this but it does solve the financing and equity issues that come with making individuals pay for it as and when they use it.

Second, yes there is an economic cost to childcare but professionalising & socialising it doesn't increase that cost. Children require looking after. That can be done by:

-removing their parents (usually mothers) from the workforce for a number of years.

-informal arrangements involving neighbours.

-formal arrangements.

For each of these, they can be funded privately (that includes a parent earning less in order to do it themselves) or funded by the state through a social mechanism. Six options total.

There are also ways of socialising the cost that do not involve childcare outside the family. Very long and salary-preserving statutory maternity and paternity leaves effectively socialise the cost of caring for very young children.

It is really important to remember that things are not free just because no money is changing hands. In other words, the mathematics issue does not go away just because nobody is being paid.

The only way in which the economics works (or rather doesn't work) the way you said is if the trade-off is one-to-one. Person A goes back to work and pays person B for childcare. That only works if person A makes more money than person B.

In the specific case you mentioned, you missed out the wages of the parent (let's not kid ourselves, the mother) who is able to work for the $5,000.

So in situation A, there are six parents who are staying at home and caring for their child, making a total of $0. Let's assume that the putative childcare provider earns $30k in alternative employment which is the same as the wage of the non-working parents. Total of $30k income.
In situation B, the parents earn $30k each, pay $5k each for childcare and are net up $25k each, plus the $30k for the childcare provider who is earning the same as before.

Society as a whole has therefore traded the childcare providers output in alternative employment for the output of the six parents who are now able to work. As long as the ratio of children to adults caring for them has decreased by more than the productivity difference between the parents and the childcare provider in their alternative job (in this case there is no wage difference and we assume wage = productivity) then the trade-off is a net benefit for society.

Of course there are other factors: a parent may prefer looking after their young child to working in the money economy.

If we make a decision as a society, we can just decide to socialise these costs wholly or partially. The UK does 15 hours a week government funded childcare (which is obviously not full-time) and many Nordic countries do a lot more.
posted by atrazine at 3:11 AM on April 6 [3 favorites]


The base mathematical figures boil down to each parent needing to make enough money to support themselves and subsidize another person. No matter how you tinker with your figures you end up with income inequality.

I teach some equivalent of high school in a country where teaching high school is reasonably paid. I don't make less than most of my students' parents, sometimes probably a bit more. I'm paid by the state.

The state could also provide public daycare at reasonable wages. If you need to tax me more to do that, sure, do that. I'm a childless person, but I live in a country with state penison, paid by compulsory national insurance. Other people's kids will pay my pension later, so it's only fair when I pay for raising other people's kids now.

Paying minimum wages for early childcare is not a mathematical inevitability, it's a political choice.
posted by sohalt at 4:01 AM on April 6 [8 favorites]


>If you have five parents who each make 30,000 a year, and they each use the same in-home day care provider and pay $5,000 a year for child care, they each end up with the same amount of money, $25,000 at the end of the year.

I dont understand the math here.

Five couples making 30k a year (15k each averaged out). Pay childcare provider 5k a year.

Childcare provider charges 25k a year, subtract costs eg rent, insurance, let's pretend it's 50%, makes 12.5k a year. If we're making this situation equal for the hypothetical, childcare provider has to also be part of a couple, so for the couple to average out same as other couples, partner would need to be making 17.5k a year. If you raise it to 6k cost per year, 30k a year all parents together, you're back to having a 15k equal income...

In any case then the daycare provider has a kid. They continue working at their job, send their kid for 6k somewhere else, and net the same 24k as everyone else in this scenario.
posted by Cozybee at 5:55 AM on April 6


- and have a lower standard of living than their parents did as a one-job family where the one job was "middle management at a factory" or something like that.

I'm sorry but "no", this is really wrong. I mean, I guess it depends on your definition of 'standard of living', but sticking to the education part alone, when they were kids, those doctors were not in super immersive deep educational care from ages 1-5 years old. It's a really modern idea that ages 1-5 are super important for structured learning, and its most assuredly trickle-down from the extreme upper class and stereotypical 'Asian tiger moms', not even upper middle class earners like generalized doctors.

They were in a daycare where they rolled around, watched tv (even if some of it was vaguely educational like Sesame Street or other PBS shows) and played with friends. It was basically the equivalent of baby sitting, so expecting your baby sitter to have a Masters in education and teach your 3-4 year old to read was way beyond the scope of the job. Ergo, it paid less, since the adults were expected to have a way different skillset.

I haven't studied this that much, but this really recent shift in the expectations is probably at least a driver of the disparate pay scales, and it's barely even comprehensible unless you currently have children (ie: it's not something your parents experienced when they were parents) so the older generation is not automatically going to agree or be on parents' side.

Back then, education started in 1st grade, the expectation of kindergarten was basically that your kid could handle their own bodily functions most of the time, and that's it. The current expectation that kids know all their letters and can read and write in kindergarten is modern.

Basically, comparing what daycare cost some theoretical middle manager back in the olden days and now is not a fair comparison because the expectations of the job were very different. They paid less and got less. Now we pay more, get more, and expect even more.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:25 AM on April 6 [2 favorites]


« Older Streetsblog NYC   |   Google v. Oracle Newer »


You are not currently logged in. Log in or create a new account to post comments.