The CCC: Covid Childcare Crisis

I work from 3-5am and 3-5pm…that’s when my infant and toddler are asleep. Given two child under the age of two, I have no idea when I will be working consistently again.

The number of work hours I have will be dependent on daycare, but I am worried. My wife selected a daycare for the fall, but it may close permanently instead. My niece’s daycare chose to close permanently. The stories coming out are not good.

The question swirling in my head right now: is childcare getting enough stimulus money? More importantly, will daycares and preschools live to see the day post-COVID such that parents can actually increase their labor hours (not to mention the additional burden that a lack of a full-time in-person K-12 is going to have on parents)?

While we know that formal childcare is important for both children’s development and labor supply, especially mothers’ work decisions, it is important that we understand the implications for inequality. A new survey from the National Association for the Education of Young Children is telling:

Ouch. Additionally, First Five Years Fund mentions, “under normal circumstances, child care providers operate on razor-thin margins…many child care facilities are being asked to remain open, operating on only a fraction of their income, in order to provide care in this time…” And while some states are helping out during this time, the lack of federal money specifically targeting childcare centers for the long run is worrisome.

One thing I didn’t know is that higher income families actually use childcare services to a much larger extent than lower income families; I don’t have intuition into how much a lack of childcare would affect low-income families vs. high-income families. Yet we also know that – at the very least – a lack of, and especially the cost of, childcare services would keep women out of the workforce.

This is a tough time for childcare centers and parents alike. COVID will increase the per-student costs associated with safety measures, PPE requirements, and capacity requirements at all childcare centers. These costs will be passed on to parents; One center I spoke with increased their price by 10%, even though the director admitted that it will cost them more than that. Arguably, given the high economic and social returns on investment to early childhood care, this is the one area I don’t understand why more isn’t being done. This is paramount to both our economies and arguably our children.

Published by ericwchan

Ph.D. Student

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