A daycare employee watches children in carts at a park in downtown Washington, DC on April 11, 2013.

A daycare employee watches children in carts at a park in downtown Washington, DC on April 11, 2013.

The majority of parents in the United States work outside the home. That means everyday about 12 million children under the age of five are left in some type of child care situation. And as most parents can tell you, care does not come cheap. On average a year at a typical child care center costs more than in-state college tuition. Yet, these high prices do not always ensure an enriching or even safe environment. A new report maps our country’s child care infrastructure, rating each state on availability, cost and quality. And says nobody is getting it right. As presidential candidates take up the cause, grading the country on child care.


  • Brigid Schulte Director of the Better Life Lab program and The Good Life Initiative at New America; author, "Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time"
  • Chris Herbst Professor of public policy, Arizona State University
  • Lynette Fraga Executive director, Child Care Aware of America
  • Courtney McCaffrey Senior associate in the Global Business Policy Council, AT Kearney


  • 11:06:54

    MR. JOSHUA JOHNSONFrom WAMU and NPR in Washington, I'm Joshua Johnson sitting in for Diane Rehm. Thanks for joining us. Diane is in Boston receiving an award from the Network For Excellence In Health Innovation. This year, childcare reform is an issue on the presidential campaign trail and a new report suggest there is a lot that needs reforming. The report grades each state on the cost, availability and quality of childcare and says no state is getting it right.

  • 11:07:25

    MR. JOSHUA JOHNSONJoining me in studio for the hour is the report's author, Brigid Schulte of New America. Her study is called "The New America Care Report." Brigid, welcome to "The Diane Rehm Show."

  • 11:07:36

    MS. BRIGID SCHULTEThanks so much.

  • 11:07:37

    JOHNSONAlso with us in studio is Lynette Fraga. She's with Childcare Aware of America, a childcare advocacy group. Lynette, glad to have you.

  • 11:07:44

    MS. LYNETTE FRAGAThank you.

  • 11:07:45

    JOHNSONAnd Courtney McCaffrey is with the consulting firm, AT Kearney. The firm sponsored the report to inform how employers handle childcare. Courtney, hello.

  • 11:07:53

    MS. COURTNEY MCCAFFREYHi, thank you.

  • 11:07:55

    JOHNSONAlso with us, on the line is public policy professor, Chris Herbst of Arizona State University. He joins us from the University of Central Europe in Budapest where he is on sabbatical. Professor, welcome.

  • 11:08:07

    MR. CHRIS HERBSTThanks for having me.

  • 11:08:08

    JOHNSONGlad to have you. Brigid Schulte, let me start with you. You've created something called the childcare index to inform this report. What is the childcare index? Where did the idea come from to do this?

  • 11:08:20

    SCHULTEWell, the idea really came from New America's CEO and president, Anne-Marie Slaughter. She was on a panel a couple of years ago with the CEO and founder of CARE.com, Sheila Marcelo. And they got to talk about how little we really know about childcare in America and they thought wouldn't it be great if we could really dig into the data and try to map out the infrastructure of what we have in our early care and learning system. And CARE.com is the largest online marketplace for care and so they have an awful lot of data on cost and on ratings.

  • 11:08:58

    SCHULTEThey also have in-home, like nanny care and that's a very difficult figure to get any information about. And so the New America, my team, we worked with a team from CARE.com and we collaborated on coming up with a methodology for how can you really measure cost, quality and availability. A number of other great work has been done. Lynette Fraga here with Childcare Aware, they do amazing work on standards and also on cost, the high cost of care.

  • 11:09:29

    SCHULTESo we wanted to build on that great body of work and so we came up with a methodology. It took us a long time just because there's not a lot of great date out there. So we're very transparent about that in the report, what we can and can't say. And one of the big things is a call for more data so we can understand the situation a little bit better. But given what we do have, we measured cost, quality and availability and then came up with the care index and every state has an individual score and then a cumulative score.

  • 11:09:58

    SCHULTEAnd then, what we did for the care report -- that's an independent report of New America that we took the index and we used it as a jumping off point for really trying to understand what's happening. And basically, the index found that no one state is doing all three things well.

  • 11:10:13

    JOHNSONYeah. I was going to ask you about that. I read through the report. It's a little depressing, I have to admit. But it's fascinating. I mean, it's revelatory. It's also very human. There are some very human stories in there. So for those who are interested in reading the report, it's not all dry facts and figures and data. The data are in there, but there's also a very human angle to this. Give us your major takeaways from the report. No state is doing it quite right, but dig into that a little bit further.

  • 11:10:43

    SCHULTERight. So the index, what we did with the index is we grouped states into quartiles then based on their cumulative score. And we wanted to look for bright spots and we wanted to see, well, what does that mean? Are the states in the higher quartiles, are they doing something different? Are they doing it better? So then, what we did is for the New America Care Report, we chose one state in every quartile in different regions of the country and then we traveled there with a video crew and we did deep dive narrative reporting.

  • 11:11:10

    SCHULTEReally investigative reporting, if you will, and we talked to a lot of people. We talked to a lot of parents. And I think the biggest news is that we went to Massachusetts, which is in the first quartile, one of the top scorers, and then we went to New Mexico in the very lowest quartile. And I think probably the most revelatory and perhaps shocking thing is that it really didn't matter what quartile you were in. Every state was faced with tradeoffs between cost, quality and availability. And everybody is struggling.

  • 11:11:41

    JOHNSONHey, by the way, if you're listening to this right now in a stationary location, if you're not driving, maybe if you're listening to our podcast later or listening ondemand, you can follow along with the report as we discuss this. You'll find a link to the report at our website, drshow.org. Lynette Fraga, let's go through the three criteria that the report detailed. First of all, let's talk about cost. Just how expensive is childcare these days?

  • 11:12:05

    FRAGAChildcare is expensive and for -- we actually, as Brigid shared, Childcare Aware of America's done a parents on the high cost of childcare report for just over a decade. And there -- we really appreciate the opportunity to work with and support a report that really amplifies the cost need. In our report, what we showed is that in 2014, the cost of childcare fees, for example, for two children exceeded housing costs for home owners with a mortgage in 24 states and the District of Columbia. Importantly, in 2014, in 28 states plus the District of Columbia, the average annual cost for an infant in center-based care was higher than a year's tuition and fees at a four-year public college or university.

  • 11:12:52


  • 11:12:52

    FRAGAThat's an incredible burden on families as they're trying to -- and times when they have their youngest children to support, they're actually potentially paying more than they would for their child in college.

  • 11:13:06

    JOHNSONAnd I imagine it's an even stiffer burden -- and it hit me so hard because, you know, in my other life, I teach at UC Berkeley so I'm thinking about my students and the cost that they spend to go to college and then, you know, how much their families have saved to get them to college. But when you have a young family, like if you're just starting out, you are less financially able to bear that cost up front than you are able, presumably, to bear the cost to send your kid to college.

  • 11:13:30

    FRAGAThat's exactly right. And we know that this is impacting all families, as Brigid shared. All families, certainly, are trying to grapple with this. How can I support my children in a quality childcare setting? And I think that's a really important point is that child care's expensive and it should be expensive. It should be expensive because it is a very labor intensive industry and these are individuals who are teaching our children.

  • 11:13:56

    FRAGAFrom what we know about brain research and development of children in very young ages, these children need and thrive on support and adult support during their development.

  • 11:14:08

    JOHNSONProfessor Chris Herbst, let me tag onto that remark that Lynette just made in terms of the cost of childcare and the necessity of that cost. How well are we doing nationwide in parents getting what they are paying for in terms of the reasons why it costs so much?

  • 11:14:28

    HERBSTWell, I think one thing to add to this discussion is that there is no single cost childcare. The costs of childcare depends on where you're standing. So we know that, for example, low income families pay the least amount per week for childcare. Middle income families pay a bit more for childcare each week and the highest income families pay the most. In terms of sort of the cost burden of childcare, sort of the relationship works in the opposite direction. So low income families pay the greatest amount of their -- or allocate the greatest amount of their income to childcare.

  • 11:15:10

    HERBSTCurrently, the allocate about 18 percent of their monthly income to childcare costs. Those in the middle of the income distribution allocate about 11 percent of their monthly income to childcare. And those at the top allocate about 8 percent of their monthly income to childcare costs. What this means is that the focus of public policy interventions, which seek to defray the cost of childcare really need to focus sort of disproportionately on the bottom of the income distribution.

  • 11:15:43

    HERBSTAnd, you know, we currently have an array of public policies that, to varying degrees of success, help low income families with defraying their childcare costs.

  • 11:15:53

    JOHNSONCourtney McCaffrey, let me bring you into the conversation. You work for a global management consulting firm, AT Kearney, and your company sponsored this New America report. Talk about what you and your company want employers to get out of this report that would inform the way they handle childcare for their employees. Not just the big companies at the top, you know, companies probably the size of AT Kearney can handle this at a different level than, say, the mom and pop cleaner or the, you know, the corner deli.

  • 11:16:24

    MCCAFFREYSure. Well, at AT Kearney, we think that most employers already know the cost that they're facing associated with childcare in America and the direct costs are obviously pretty low because as everybody's been pointing out, the direct costs are really borne by the families of these children. But there are a lot of indirect costs that are affecting U.S. businesses, the first of which is just the productivity effect. So because of a lack of resiliency in our childcare system and inadequate backup care, we have a lot of employed parents that, you know, have to stay home with sick children or if their caregiver is sick, they have to stay home.

  • 11:17:00

    MCCAFFREYSo there's a lot of productivity losses there in the U.S. economy. And some estimates put this at as much as $4 billion a year. A second direct effect that businesses face in terms of the childcare situation in America is that we often lose mothers out of the work force. Sometimes fathers as well, but we know that more often it's mothers that stay home and that's obviously every family's decision to do that. But we also know that a greater diversity in a company's workforce and especially at senior management levels improves company performance.

  • 11:17:35

    MCCAFFREYSo we think that, you know, if we improve the childcare situation and sort of draw attention to it that we could actually improve U.S. business performance over the long term as well.

  • 11:17:43

    JOHNSONYou know, we're up against a break. I definitely want to continue talking about how this affects employers. We encourage you to chime in on the phones, especially if you are a parent, moms and dads. I want to hear from some dads about childcare in America. 800-433-8850, that's 800-433-8850. Email us, drshow@wamu.org. Find us on Facebook or tweet us. We are @drshow. Stand by. We're back in a minute.

  • 11:20:00

    JOHNSONIt's "The Diane Rehm Show." I'm Joshua Johnson sitting in for Diane. We're discussing a new report on the state of childcare in America with Brigid Schulte of New America, Lynette Fraga of Childcare Aware of America, Courtney McCaffrey At Kearney and Professor Chris Herbst of Arizona State University. We're going to get to some of your calls, emails and tweets in just a moment. I've already started reading through some of them during the break.

  • 11:20:22

    JOHNSONAnd we've got some very telling stories from some of our listeners about just how hard this is. And we welcome those, even if you don't necessarily have a question or an idea. Like, we want to hear what you're dealing with. So if you're dealing with something that you think other parents might be dealing with, you know, we would love to hear it. Drshow@wamu.org and feel free to give us a call, 800-433-8850.

  • 11:20:47

    JOHNSONBrigid Schulte, there are some profiles in this report and you profiled -- you were just mentioning a woman in Georgia who you followed around who's got this really Herculean routine that she has to go through to make her life work. She's making it work, but it's just a really heavy lift.

  • 11:21:03

    SCHULTEIt's really exhausting. And the thing -- we spent some time with Manyotta Carter (sp?) and if people want to go to our website, we have videos of a number of the different people whose stories we tell. And Manyotta Carter, she -- it's an amazing story, but it's not a unique story. This is a story that a lot of people share with us. But Manyotta, she's a wonderful mom. She gets up at 5:00 in the morning, you know, does the whole morning routine, gets her two daughters out the door.

  • 11:21:34

    SCHULTEHas to drive from her house to her childcare, which is about 15 miles away, drop them and then go about another 20 to get into work. And the reason that she does that is because she wanted her kids very close to her work because her husband has a very mobile detailing business and his schedule is very unpredictable. So she needed the kids close to her in case there was an emergency and she really wanted the onsite or the near site childcare center where she even has an employee discount, but the cost of two children at that center would be more than she makes working in the records department.

  • 11:22:09

    SCHULTEAnd so she said, you know, I can't afford to work and I can't afford not to work, you know, if she was going to put her kids there. So she started building concentric circles to try to find high quality licensed care that she could afford and that's what took her 20 miles outside away from her work. So it's just a Herculean struggle, like you say, just to get into work by 9 o'clock in the morning. And then, she has to turn around to do it all again in the evening.

  • 11:22:35

    JOHNSONLet me get to some of these childcare stories from our listeners. And if StoryCorp on Friday makes you cry, you may want to turn off the radio because some of these are tough. Jennifer in Indianapolis writes, our costs for my daughter when she was 12 weeks old through 18 months were more than our mortgage payment. A lot more. If it hadn't been for help from our parents, one of us would've had to quit our job, which then would've put everything in jeopardy. It was terrible.

  • 11:22:59

    JOHNSONSoco emailed, my fiancé and I are first-time parents struggling to balance my job and my responsibility as a mother. I have an awesome partner in her father and we work together to try and give our daughter the very best in childcare. However, I'm overwhelmed with cost and how little companies do for working mothers and fathers. Courtney McCaffrey, could I ask you to chime in on that?

  • 11:23:21

    MCCAFFREYSure. Absolutely. I mean, that is similar to a lot of stories that I've heard from friends, relatives, in the report as well and it's certainly an issue. And I think that there are things that at least some businesses are doing. I think businesses can do more. One of the most basic things that businesses can do is offer more flexible work schedules, which enables parents to sort of get out the door on their own schedule, get into work, perform the work they need to do, maybe they do more work at home at night once the kids are in bed. And right now, according to a recent survey, about 80 percent of companies are offering flexible work arrangements, but only 30 percent of those have written down arrangements.

  • 11:24:00

    MCCAFFREYSo it's often sort of this informal understanding between employees and their managers, which then puts a lot of, you know, it just puts a lot of things into question based on who your manager is and how flexible they are.

  • 11:24:13

    JOHNSONSo part of it's a management quality issue of managers knowing to go around and say, hey, you know, this is available to you if you want to take it. There's no penalty. Like, if you want this, this is for you.

  • 11:24:25


  • 11:24:27


  • 11:24:28

    FRAGAYeah, so I think an additional layer of challenge as we're thinking about business supports that sort of marry, Brigid, what you shared and, Courtney, what you shared, is the idea that there is a desert out there in terms of accessible and affordable care and these rings of this concentric circle idea of how far out do I have to go in order to find quality, affordable childcare that meets my needs. And we recently did a report on childcare deserts and one of the issues that came up and has come up is this idea of those families who work nontraditional hours.

  • 11:25:03

    FRAGAThose families that work -- that have shift work and how do they manage oftentimes, which are very complex work schedules, Herculean efforts to try and figure out their childcare arrangements can be incredibly stressful. And then, add on to that such the importance of having continuity of care in a stable childcare environment for a child during such critical issues that really compounds the issues and the desire for parents to create a good work -- a great childcare situation for them.

  • 11:25:34

    JOHNSONBrigid Schulte?

  • 11:25:35

    SCHULTEI just wanted to add one quick point on the business side. You know, the best study that's been done and it's dated, but it hasn't changed much on who foots the bill for childcare shows that about 60 percent of the cost of childcare is borne by parents through tuition and fees. About 39 percent is the government and that's helping low wage families through subsidies and about 1 percent is paid for by business and philanthropy. So business is not doing a whole lot. There's about 7 percent of companies offer onsite childcare and that's down from 9 percent a few years ago. So there really hasn't been a whole lot of business involvement. It's really been on the backs of parents.

  • 11:26:20

    JOHNSONLet's get to the phones now, 800-433-8850. Beginning with Jason in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Jason, welcome.

  • 11:26:28

    JASONYes. Thank you for taking my call.

  • 11:26:31


  • 11:26:31

    JASONYeah. I just wanted to comment on the cost of childcare. Both my wife and I work full time. She works for a healthcare provider and I work for a railroad. But the cost is outrageous. We have two small children, 8 and 6, who go to a school-age care program in the morning and the childcare services, they pick them up in the afternoon, once they're dismissed from school, and the stay there until, you know, usually when I get off of work around 4:30, maybe quarter of 5:00 is when I get there.

  • 11:27:18

    JASONBut it's pushing, for that little bit of time, I would say they're probably there for maybe four hours tops or maybe four and a half. It's pushing almost, you know, $800 a month. And fortunately, like I said, my wife and I both work full-time, but that's still a pretty hefty chunk of change that's coming out of your income, your take-home pay, just to have somebody take care of your children for that little bit of time.

  • 11:27:49

    JOHNSONHey, Jason, let me ask you. If we -- if there was one thing that could be provided for you that would be of the most help, like what would you suggest?

  • 11:27:58

    JASONWell, that's the thing. I really don't know what to suggest. I mean, my wife and I have looked into other alternatives, such as, you know, I guess what they call private daycare. You know, but we've heard horror stories about, you know, having individuals watching your children in their own home. You know, they advertise one thing and then you show up there one day unannounced and they're smoking in the house or the house is a mess or, you know, I mean, so the -- what the alternative is, I couldn't even tell you. I wouldn't even know where to begin.

  • 11:28:30

    JOHNSONWell, Jason, let me put that to Brigid. Thank you for your call, Jason. I’m sorry you're dealing with that, but Brigid Schulte, you had also included in your report research about home care centers, not just free-standing daycare centers. And from what I read in your report, some of them are just fine, but Jason is right. There are some additional risks because they're not monitored the same.

  • 11:28:53

    SCHULTEWell, you know, there are different types of care. You know, there's center-based care, there's family home care, you know, there's licensed care, there's registered care and then there's this informal market. And that might be what he's talking about. With licensed and registered care, there are standards, but the standards are all over the map. Some are not even very great. You know, as Lynette and Childcare Aware have pointed out in so many great reports, you know, they're not -- even the licensed places aren't inspected regularly.

  • 11:29:22

    SCHULTEYou know, and there was a report not long ago where even in a licensed facility and inspector came in and one caregiver was taking care of 59 kids and that's in, like, the official market.

  • 11:29:33


  • 11:29:33

    SCHULTE59. You know, so we really don't know what happens in the informal market. And like you say, some can be great and it's grandma or it's your aunt or it's this loving neighbor that's taking care of kids forever and is wonderful, but you just don't know. And you really don't find out until there's a tragedy. And unfortunately, I've written about some of those.

  • 11:29:54

    JOHNSONProfessor Chris Herbst, we're getting a lot of comments about kind of the government responsibility to help out with this and I wanted to get your reaction to one or two of the points that seem to keep coming up. Lily emailed us, I wanted to add that government assistance for childcare has a long waiting list. I've been on a waiting list for the past year and I'm only able to send my child to daycare because the school has a scholarship program. If it wasn't for that, I wouldn't be able to work as a single parent because I would have no one to watch my 3 year old.

  • 11:30:24

    JOHNSONShea tweeted us, my wife and I spend 35 percent of our income on childcare. We missed the earned income tax credit by less than 100 bucks for the past two years. So tough. And Ted Barfield tweeted us, what is the argument for childcare being a public or social good versus a personal obligation. Isn't this really a family's obligation? So there are arguments on both sides, Professor Herbst, in terms of how much of a responsibility government should take on with this. What do you make of it?

  • 11:30:59

    HERBSTWell, I think my view is that I think there are two reasons why, you know, government intervention in the childcare market may be justified. Number one is to, you know, so I think any government policy around childcare should focus on achieving two goals. Number one is reducing costs for families so that it makes it easier for parents to enter the labor market and work and then, secondly to increase the quality of childcare for children because we know that, you know, that children are interfacing with childcare arrangements very early in life, which happens to be a very sensitive period developmentally for children.

  • 11:31:43

    HERBSTAnd the comments I'm hearing from the listeners are very much borne out by the date. On the one hand, the cost of childcare is -- can be Herculean. On the other hand, the quality of care rendered in the market can be low and at times, dangerously low. And, you know, given the number of hours that children are spending in care, the sheer number of kids, as I said, during a very developmentally important period of time, are participating in childcare. The focus of our policy efforts, as I said before, needs to be equal parts cost reduction and quality enhancing.

  • 11:32:26

    JOHNSONThat's public policy professor, Christ Herbst, of Arizona State University. I'm Joshua Johnson and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's continue on the line with a phone call, 800-433-8850. Emily in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Emily, welcome.

  • 11:32:45


  • 11:32:45

    JOHNSONHi. What's on your mind, Emily?

  • 11:32:47

    EMILYWell, I wanted to speak to the government subsidies aspect. I have a comparison. I raised my oldest in France and we were able to get him into a government subsidized cresh there, very high quality care, very qualified personnel and pay -- you pay in proportion to the income that you're making. So if you're a single income and the second parent is looking for work, which was my situation, you were able to put your child in daycare and, you know, know that they're well cared for during the day and have that time to look for the job and secure it. And here, it's just fiscally -- it's just not possible here in America with a second child.

  • 11:33:30

    EMILYWe're on the waiting list at five different places and the cost without a job is just not possible.

  • 11:33:35

    JOHNSONI'm sorry. You said you're on a waiting list for five place?

  • 11:33:38

    EMILYFive different daycares, yes, here in Tulsa, Oklahoma, um-hum.

  • 11:33:41

    JOHNSONSo you're kind of just playing the lottery really. You're just throwing everything against the wall and just hoping that something sticks.

  • 11:33:46

    EMILYExactly. And you know, it's possible -- I'm looking for a job, but it's not possible to really, you know, even interview for anything because you don't know if you're gonna have someone to keep your child.

  • 11:34:00

    JOHNSONWow. Well, Emily, I wish you the best of luck with those five waiting lists. Thank you for calling in. Lynette Fraga, did you want to chime in on that?

  • 11:34:06

    FRAGAYeah, so a couple of different things. One, as Emily shared, she's really between a rock and a hard place in trying to support her family, interviewing, finding childcare for even that, it can be difficult. And I wanted to speak to the subsidy piece and the support. Actually, only one out of six children who are eligible, below the poverty line for public childcare system actually receive it. And so that's also an issue that we have to grapple with. And that's for many different reasons that they may have access. It could be wait lists, could be paperwork, it could be not having the information that parents need about selecting and determining their eligibility for assistance.

  • 11:34:47

    FRAGASo that's, I think, a critically important point as well. And I wanted to also speak to and just sort of underline Chris' comment about quality. So critical for us to marry the idea of cost with quality. It's both important that families are able to access affordable care and not -- and also it's so critically important for that care to be quality. So when we're talking about this, we need to really keep both in mind.

  • 11:35:13


  • 11:35:13

    MCCAFFREYYes, and I'd like to echo that as well from the business perspective. I talked about some of the sort of short term impacts on business of the care environment, but one of the longer term impacts we see is that if we aren't providing this quality care now for these children, the workforce of the future will be less productive or less innovative than it might've been, which is then a long term negative effect on U.S. competitiveness in our businesses.

  • 11:35:36

    JOHNSONYou know, we're coming up on a break in a little bit, but Brigid Schulte, can I ask you to -- and I should've done this earlier. My mistake. But we keep throwing this term "quality" around. What do we mean by quality? Like, what is an ideal childcare environment even look like?

  • 11:35:51

    SCHULTERight. That's a really good question. Quality is difficult to define. It was a difficult measure that we had to try to find one that we could use that would be standardized across all states. We ended up using accreditation data because that shows that a center or family home actually has taken efforts to meet safety, health and some quality standards. But true quality, when you look at the research, it's really the interaction, that relationship, that a warm, responsive caregiver has with an individual child, even from the earliest stages.

  • 11:36:27

    SCHULTEYou know, when we talk about quality, what is so important to remember is that the zero to 5 years, the child's brain is growing faster than at any other time in life. Every second between 700 and 1,000 new neuroconnections are being made. And by the time they get to kindergarten, what research has shown is that the academic achievement gap that shows up and really can, you know, set you on a very different path, that shows up in high school, the majority of it is already present the very first day of kindergarten.

  • 11:36:58

    SCHULTESo those zero to 5 years are critical, not just for each kid and family, but really for the future of the country.

  • 11:37:04

    JOHNSONI want to talk more about quality. We'll take more of your calls and emails and tweets and Facebook posts with Brigid Schulte of New America, Lynette Fraga of Childcare Aware of America, Courtney McCaffrey of AT Kearney and Professor Chris Herbst of Arizona State University. Feel free to keep calling in, 800-433-8850, or email us, drshow@wamu.org. I'm Joshua Johnson, glad to be with you. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show," from WAMU and NPR.

  • 11:40:03

    JOHNSONWelcome back. I'm Joshua Johnson, sitting in for Diane Rehm. Let's continue our conversation about childcare in America with another call, 800-433-8850. Jerry in Jackson, Louisiana, Jerry welcome.

  • 11:40:15

    JERRYHey, thanks for taking my call, Joshua.

  • 11:40:17

    JOHNSONSure, Jerry, what's on your mind?

  • 11:40:18

    JERRYWell, what's on my mind is I listen to your show, and I'm very interested and continually that people are talking about the high cost of childcare and the lack of government support or business support to take care of the children. Well I tend to think that the cost of childcare should be borne by the parents, not the government, which means other taxpayers, and not necessarily business.

  • 11:40:44

    JERRYIf you go and have children, you know it's going to cost money, and, you know, barring medical expenses, just to raise them is going to cost money. So why would you have children and then expect society to bear the cost of those children? To me it just doesn't seem right. I raised children, and my wife and I bore the cost ourselves. We didn't go out there looking for -- you know, looking for someone to take care of our children that was not at our cost, and that's basically my comment.

  • 11:41:11

    JOHNSONI hear you. Jerry, do you mind if I just follow up on that with a quick question?

  • 11:41:15


  • 11:41:17

    JOHNSONAnd it's kind of a mean question, and I am not wishing this on anybody, but I have to ask it. What if you and your wife had planned to have a family, and she died in childbirth, and now you have to raise this child alone? What would you have done that?

  • 11:41:31

    JERRYI have parents, I have brothers and sisters. I would not have held my hand out to a local, state or government asking for a handout, and I also have a church I go to. I understand there are people...

  • 11:41:42

    JOHNSONSo you're convinced that people should have enough of a social net?

  • 11:41:43

    JERRYThere are people in those situations, and it's the rare circumstance where someone has children who does not have a social net, and also it's not uncommon for people to simply be impoverished and have more children than they can obviously afford. And I love children, my -- I don't want any child in America to go hungry and do without, but, you know, with responsibility or with rights come responsibility, and if you have children, it's your responsibility to -- primarily your responsibility to take care of them, not society's at large.

  • 11:42:18

    JOHNSONGot you. Jerry, I appreciate you calling in. Thanks for calling us. Lynette Fraga, what do you make of Jerry's argument, that parents have to bear the primary responsibility or ought to?

  • 11:42:27

    FRAGAI think my first response would be in terms of what is childcare. And childcare is both a workforce support and an early education setting. So I think it's also critical to understand that first, oftentimes families do need to work, whether a single parent or dual working parents, given the economy, and that in working you are going to need quality care and that as we think about a quality childcare setting that that not only means that it's a workforce support or a space for you to have your child when they're going to training or school, but it's in a critical early education setting.

  • 11:43:07

    FRAGASo both things are happening at the same time, and what we know is that when you invest in early care and education settings that we get, as a society, as was mentioned earlier by Courtney, that we get as a society a return on that investment that could be seven or eight times more. James Heckman, an economist, shares about this return on investment. So it's not only a return on investment now for families today, but it's also a return on investment for a competitive economy.

  • 11:43:35

    JOHNSONBut what about Jerry's argument about the community, you know, churches and parents and this, this village that it takes to raise a child, that African proverb that is now ascribed to Hillary Clinton? I think this idea of relying more on your community and not reaching out to public assistance as a default is compelling. I mean, as a kid I need to have -- I need to be supported governmentally through some services, like schools, public schools, but I also need my community to rally around me and invest in me as a default. Isn't there a compelling argument to be made for that, Brigid?

  • 11:44:10

    SCHULTEWell, you know, you make a very interesting point, and Jerry did, as well. And to be perfectly honest, the point that he makes, you know, that the childcare should and is a private responsibility not a public good, that's really the crux of the issue about why we have such a patchwork system. We're very divided as a country in terms of what we think should be happening.

  • 11:44:35

    SCHULTEA lot of policymakers that we spoke to for the report, they said, you know, we have a hard time investing in particularly infant and toddler care because we think babies should be home with their mamas. That's very -- it's a -- we as a -- the General Social Survey, Pew Research and others have really picked up a very -- a strong ambivalence about having mothers in the workforce when their children are young.

  • 11:44:57

    SCHULTEBut the bottom line is the majority of children have been in what they call non-maternal care from the age of six weeks. The majority have been for two decades, since the mid-1990s. So that's just the reality. But when you talk about whether private or public good, you know, we think of educating our children as a public good. So we invest in public elementary education. It takes about $12,000 to educate one child K through 12, and we don't see -- that's an investment we're willing to make.

  • 11:45:31

    JOHNSONOh and we should -- I'm sorry, we've got a lot of calls to keep getting to. I'm sorry to cut you off, but I wanted to make we also included, since you brought up education, teachers who do early childhood education are not making what their counterparts make further up the food chain in K through 12. They're making a lot less money.

  • 11:45:46

    SCHULTEYeah, they make about what a bellhop does. They make less than $10 an hour on average. About half are on some form of public assistance like food stamps. We talk -- in our report we profile a teacher in Massachusetts who has been an early care and learning teacher for 30 years, and every year she's been on food stamps. She's had to move back in with her mother. She has a hard time paying her bills. Turnover rates are very high because some places you can get more money flipping hamburgers than you can...

  • 11:46:13

    JOHNSONProfessor Chris Herbst, I want to make sure that we talk briefly about the presidential campaign this year. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have both put forth proposals to reform child care. Can you lay out for us briefly what their suggesting?

  • 11:46:29

    HERBSTYeah, so the Trump has articulated a pretty specific childcare proposal, and the centerpiece of the proposal is a tax deduction of childcare expenses for families with up to four children. And there is a little bit of means testing in the Trump plan, which is to say that eligibility for the tax deduction is constrained for married couples filing jointly earning up to $500,000 a year, and the benefits are capped, the benefits of this tax deduction are capped at the average cost of childcare in the family's state of residence.

  • 11:47:11

    HERBSTSo the centerpiece again of the Trump proposal is a tax deduction, which tends to favor heavily wealthy families. On the other hand, Secretary Clinton's childcare proposal, although we have fewer details on the proposal, the centerpiece of the secretary's plan would be to subsidize costs such that the cost of care would be capped at 10 percent of family income.

  • 11:47:43

    HERBSTAnd so one way to interpret this is that families would pay a co-pay for childcare up to 10 percent of income, and then the subsidy would pick over whatever's leftover between 10 percent of income and the sticker price of childcare. So very different approaches, very different policy tools being brought to bear essentially to accomplish the same goal.

  • 11:48:04

    JOHNSONLet's keep going on the phones now, 800-433-8850. Jason in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Jason welcome.

  • 11:48:10

    JASONHow's it going, man?

  • 11:48:11

    JOHNSONIt's going well. What's on your mind?

  • 11:48:14

    JASONWe found affordable childcare actually through our school district, which allows our five-year-old daughter go to what is called prime time, which goes from about 7:30 in the morning until school starts at 8:50, and then when school is over, she actually goes back to prime time until roughly, I don't know, 6:00. It's $11 a day. So I mean, there's absolutely affordable childcare. You know, I just happened to be fortunate and live in a school district that offers that.

  • 11:48:42

    JOHNSONJason, that's awesome, congratulations for finding great care, and thank you for calling in. I went to something similar when I was little. I remember I had before-school and after-school. I grew up in Palm Beach County, Florida, and I remember for a long time, I must have been at least first through fourth grade, I think. Mom's listening, so mom, if I'm wrong just tweet me, and I'll get the right numbers.

  • 11:49:02

    JOHNSONBut I remember I had after-school and preschool, and I was, like, why do I have to go to school before all the other kids. But I was in a place where she knew exactly where I would be. Brigid, what did you find in terms of how school districts, K-12 districts, are helping to fill this gap?

  • 11:49:19

    SCHULTEWell, what you find again, school districts, states, counties, things are all over the map. They're really -- one of the things that we did find is there is a growing number of states that are offering universal pre-K programs, investing more money in that. I think the Obama administration has been very strong in pushing that and making funds available to encourage states to do that so that there are more four-year-olds and then -- in a universal pre-K setting.

  • 11:49:54

    SCHULTEBut in terms of before and after care, you know, it really just depends on the district. It's -- there's sort of no rhyme or reason to it.

  • 11:49:59

    JOHNSONLet me get to a couple of tweets we've been getting over the hour. Lena tweeted us, millennials are criticized for delaying growing up, but with debt and mortgage and car, childcare becomes impossible in the U.S., not so elsewhere. Eduardo tweeted us, for generations responsible couples have managed by proper planning. Responsibility people manage. Move on. Back to the phones now with Paul in Houston, Texas. Paul, welcome.

  • 11:50:27


  • 11:50:29

    JOHNSONHi Paul, what's on your mind?

  • 11:50:31

    PAULWell, I used to work as tech support and application developer for a software company that released childcare management software, and so I'm talking from the other end of this discussion. The childcare management centers that I talked with tended to be very tight on their budget because of all of the costs that are being accrued for them, including especially like payroll and insurance.

  • 11:50:59

    PAULIf we want to make sure that we're getting quality care, and we want to reduce the price to the parents, how do we make sure that it's affordable for the childcare centers to do this, to be able to continue providing a high quality of care and prevent parents from being left with trying to go to unregulated care?

  • 11:51:18

    JOHNSONPaul, that's a good question. Lynette Fraga, can you take that on?

  • 11:51:20

    FRAGASure, so this is -- this is another example about investment and infrastructure. This is all -- this is going to take all of us to come together to solve this issue. What we know and what's said earlier is that the cost of childcare is being borne by parents for the most part, this burden, and for teachers and those that provide care in center-based or family childcare homes, et cetera, there's also a cost for them to run that, what is essentially a childcare servicing business.

  • 11:51:52

    FRAGAAnd both are important. It's important for us to have infrastructure, oversight, monitoring and business systems in place, as well a quality childcare environments with quality teachers that Brigid had mentioned earlier. And what we know is that, in fact, for example in every state, childcare teachers would need to spend themselves, as teachers and providers of care, more than 80 percent of their income in order to afford center-based childcare for two children.

  • 11:52:19

    FRAGAAnd so we are looking -- and for two of their own children. So we are looking at a system and an infrastructure that we need to invest in, and that is the back office sort of -- sort of pieces, too.

  • 11:52:28

    JOHNSONThat's Lynette Fraga, the executive director of Child Care Aware of America. I'm Joshua Johnson, and you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. Back to the phones now with Cheryl in Cleveland, Ohio. Cheryl, welcome.

  • 11:52:43

    CHERYLHi, I'm just calling to make a couple comments. I've been in the childcare business for about 25 years and was the director of a childcare center for six. And I found fascinating time happening where parents were having their children and not getting married so that they could stay on assistance until after all their children were in kindergarten.

  • 11:53:05

    CHERYLAnd also I've had many, many moms turn down promotions in their positions because they'll lose their DHS assistance. And I just wondered if your panel had any comment on that.

  • 11:53:18

    JOHNSONI would love to put that to them, but Cheryl, before I let you go, could I ask you, you said you've been in childcare for 25 years?

  • 11:53:25


  • 11:53:26

    JOHNSONWhat keeps you in the business? It's got to be hard.

  • 11:53:30

    CHERYLIt's horrible, but it's wonderful. It's wonderful working with children, but as far as the pay, pretty much minimum wage. I've lost a lot of women to fast food restaurants, a lot of comings and goings because of pay. There's no healthcare. We had one paid day off, and it was our birthday, you know, and had to be there all the time. It's a very hard job. But I went into it when my children were babies and went to nursery school when they were in nursery school, and then after they -- now they're all in college, just became a director because that's where my niche was.

  • 11:54:09

    JOHNSONYeah, well Cheryl, I -- it's kind of infuriating that there are people who would get a better economic incentive flipping burgers than caring for children, but I appreciate that people like you are still in this line of work. Thank you for calling in. Professor Herbst, could I ask you to comment on that, one kind of the social implications of seeking daycare through the way that our country sets the system up?

  • 11:54:33

    HERBSTWell, I wanted to -- if I could comment on the caller's comment that moms are turning down promotions.

  • 11:54:39


  • 11:54:41

    HERBSTBecause they're afraid that their childcare costs are going to increase. I mean this to me is sort of tantamount to economic insanity. We know that -- we know that women make up today about half the labor force. It seems to me that there's a strong role for public policy to make it easier, not more difficult, for women to work so that they don't have to turn down promotions.

  • 11:55:05

    HERBSTIt also seems to me that the subsidy should not sort of phase out so quickly as income rises so that the incentive to remain employed remains strong even as mothers are earning more.

  • 11:55:18

    JOHNSONWe're almost out of time for the hour. By the way, if you want to read that New America report, you'll find a link on our website, drshow.org. If I could ask each of you to go down the line and just give me your one top-line suggestion of the one best thing that childcare centers or businesses or public policy or the community could do right now to start working on to try to chip away at this challenge, what's at the top of your priorities listen. Brigid Schulte, what would be the one top priority that you'd like to see us tackle right now?

  • 11:55:51

    SCHULTEWell, you know, honestly as a writer and a journalist, this is the most important thing is to have a discussion, is to have greater awareness of what's really out there and to really address some of those very deep-seated feelings like the caller Jerry mentioned that this is not a public good, this is a private responsibility. Those are very strong attitudes among a certain percentage of our population, and these are conversations that we need to have because what we've got is a patchwork, fragmented system, and it's going to take all of us coming to the table to figure out how to go forward.

  • 11:56:20

    JOHNSONLynette, briefly?

  • 11:56:23

    FRAGAI would say to families and communities, let your voice be heard about the need and the importance. We've heard tremendous stories today. And we invite you to join us at childcareworks.org.

  • 11:56:30


  • 11:56:32

    MCCAFFREYYeah, I'd like to echo what Brigid was saying, that we just need to elevate the national conversation about these issues and that businesses should play a really large part in that conversation, both sharing what's worked for them in their individual businesses, as well as what might work in terms of broader public policy.

  • 11:56:45

    JOHNSONAnd briefly, Professor Herbst?

  • 11:56:49

    HERBSTYeah, I would say that although, you know, most parents would argue that childcare quality is really important to them, oftentimes parents are not informed about what constitutes low- and high-quality childcare. And I think there's a really big role for public policy in turning parents into informed consumers so that they...

  • 11:57:09

    JOHNSONWell then that makes feel better that -- that makes me feel better that we might be part of the solution because we've got to end this conversation, but we've been having it. Professor Chris Herbst of Arizona State University, thanks for talking to us.

  • 11:57:18

    HERBSTThank you. Courtney McCaffrey of AT Kearney, thank you for being here.

  • 11:57:21

    MCCAFFREYThank you.

  • 11:57:22

    JOHNSONLynette Fraga of Child Care Aware of America, glad to have had you, and the study's author, Brigid Schulte of New America. Brigid, thank you very much.

  • 11:57:28

    SCHULTEThanks so much for having us.

  • 11:57:29

    JOHNSONRemember you'll find the report and more information on our shows and guests online at drshow.org. Until we meet again, I'm Joshua Johnson, sitting in for Diane Rehm. Thanks for listening.

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