How other nations pay for child care. The United States is an outlier.

In Denmark, typical 2-year-olds attend daycare, where they have a guaranteed place, and their parents pay no more than 25 percent of the cost. This guaranteed place will remain until the children are in daycare at the age of 10. If their parents choose to stay home or hire a nanny, the government also helps pay for that.

In the United States, two-year-olds are less likely to attend formal child care. If they do, their parents pay top dollar – on average $ 1,100 per month – and compete for a place. If their parents stay at home or find another arrangement, they are also alone to finance it, as they will be until kindergarten.

In the developed world, the United States is an outlier in its low levels of financial support for child care – something the Democrats, with their Social Security spending bill, are trying to change. The United States is spending 0.2 percent of its GDP on caring for children aged 2 and under – that’s about $ 200 a year for most families, in the form of an annual tax credit for parents who pay for care.

The rest of the rich countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development spend on average 0.7 percent of GDP on toddlers, mainly through heavily subsidized childcare. Denmark, for example, spends $ 23,140 per year per child on child care for children aged 2 and under.

“As a society, with public funding, we spend a lot less on children before kindergarten than once they reach kindergarten,” said Elizabeth Davis, an economist studying child care at the University of Canada. Minnesota. “And yet the science of child development shows how very important investments in younger ages are, and we are reaping societal benefits from those investments.”

Congress is negotiating the details of the spending bill, and many items are likely to be cut to reduce the cost. The current draft child care plan would make licensed child care free for families with the lowest incomes, and it would cost no more than 7% of family income for those earning up to twice the median state income. It would provide a universal public preschool for children aged 3 and 4. And this would increase the salary of preschool teachers to be equivalent to that of primary school teachers (currently, the median hourly wage for a 4-year-old preschool teacher is $ 14.67 and for a 5-year-old kindergarten teacher $ 32.80.)

United States spend more than any OECD country except Luxembourg on teaching from elementary school to college. But Americans have long had mixed feelings about whether young children should stay home with their families or go to daycare. Some Republicans say direct payments to parents would give them the choice of enrolling in daycare or staying at home. Although many Red States have public preschools, some Republicans have said they don’t want the federal government involved. Some business groups are opposed to how Biden’s spending bill would be paid: higher taxes on businesses and wealthy Americans.

The pandemic, however, has forced the question.

“I write these reports saying that this has been a crisis for over 30 years – it’s not new,” said Gina Adams, senior researcher at the Urban Institute. “But the pandemic has reminded people that child care is a pillar of our economy. Parents cannot work without it. It’s got to a point where the costs of not investing are much, much clearer.

Overall, federal, state, and local governments spend about $ 1,000 per year on the care of low-income children aged 2 and under, and $ 200 on other toddlers, according to an article for the Hamilton Project at Brookings, by Professor Davis and Aaron Sojourner, also an economist at the University of Minnesota.

Some states and cities offer a public preschool, ages 3 or 4. But only seven states (and DC) serve more than half of 4-year-olds, and 14 states either have no public preschool or serve less than 10 percent of children, according to National Research Institute for Preschool Education.

For children under 3 years old, only the poorest working families are eligible for subsidies, for example Early departure or the block subsidy for childcare, but less than one in six eligible children receives assistance. For most families, the only direct government support for early childhood care and education comes from the Child Care and Dependents Tax Credit. It benefits the most high income earners: average credit is $ 586 and $ 124 for the lowest incomes.

The situation is very different in many rich countries. In Europe, new parents have paid leave of 14 months, on average, and it is common for children to start public school at the age of 3. )

For children aged 1 and 2, parents must pay more for childcare, and there are tensions similar to those in the United States over whether it is best for children to be at home with their parents, said Hans Bos, senior vice president studying education policy at the American Research Institutes. But governments still pay a significant portion of child care costs – including payments for stay-at-home parents in countries like Finland, South Korea and Denmark.

the Nordic countries have the most generous child care systems, including free care for low-income families. In Denmark, in addition to heavily subsidized care for children up to the age of 10, which is mainly run by the government but includes private centers and home care, parents of toddlers receive a quarterly family allowance of $ 700.

In Germany, children can attend forms of “kita”From the first months to primary school. In some places parents pay school fees according to their income, and in others, including Berlin and Hamburg, it is free. In France, parents of babies and young children receive tax credits of up to 85% of the cost of attending day care centers called crèches or of hiring “child minders” at home before. the start of public nursery school at the age of 2 or 3 years.

Parents pay a much larger share of their income in some other countries, but still receive more government assistance than in the United States. Japan has subsidized daycare, but parents’ share of school fees is high and it is very difficult to find places. England and Ireland offer free preschool, but only a few hours a day.

Governments sometimes help pay for child care costs to achieve various policy goals.

One is increased fertility (although studies have shown that government policies don’t necessarily make people have more babies in the long term).

Another objective is to increase the participation of women in the labor market. In Europe, Studies show, childcare has had a greater effect on this measure than policies such as paid parental leave. Studies in the United States have also found that subsidized child care and preschool increase the chances that mothers continue to work, especially low-income women.

A third goal is to ensure that children from all walks of life are equally prepared. Wealthy families can more easily afford quality care, which helps close the achievement gap starting in kindergarten. Research in the United States shows that children are less likely to have formal child care whether their parents are low-income, Hispanic, or have no college degrees. Universal programs have been shown to close the gap in preparation for kindergarten. Yet in the United States, one on three American children start kindergarten without any kindergarten.

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About Geraldine Higgins

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