Care Economy

Because children’s experiences in the first five years of life establish the foundation for ongoing learning and progress, high-quality early care and education for all children is critical. Unfortunately, the American system for the provision of early care and education is deeply fragmented and severely under-resourced, which results in vastly uneven quality of and access to services. Quality child care access and affordability is a particular hardship for low- and moderate-income families, exacerbating inequities that can then persist for generations. That is why policymakers at every level of government need to prioritize investments in the child care system the same way they do infrastructure investments, because an effective child and early education system supports not just families but the economy and society overall.

At the same time, the United States lacks adequate national policies to support parents’ ability to remain in the labor force after having children, many parents—mostly mothers—drop out. This has important ramifications for their future work prospects, including their career path and earnings potential, which in turn have implications for family income levels, family well-being, and the economy as a whole. Lastly, it should not be overlooked that nearly 2 million adults, mostly women, are currently paid to provide early care and education services to more than 12 million children across the country. If these jobs were properly rewarded, they could be a desirable form of employment in every community. All of these challenges can be addressed with bold state, local, and federal investments in America’s children and families.


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Child Care Research Toolkit

The toolkit details and provides links to data resources, research papers, surveys, and policy recommendations on the following topics: Costs and benefits of child care; child care funding; child care participation and barriers to care; child care provider demographics and wages; and child care campaign strategy. This list will be updated with additional resources and as new data become available. Questions or suggestions? Email [email protected].

Last updated March 2023


Murray-Kaine Proposal Would Protect and Improve Child Care For Thousands of West Virginia Working Families

With temporary federal funding to help families afford child care ending soon, US Senators Patty Murray and Tim Kaine have proposed an increase in child care funding for all states that would give West Virginia an additional $77 million annually, allowing it to serve some 4,200 more children and build on pandemic-initiated improvements to our child care system. Negotiations are reportedly underway in Congress over an economic package being considered for enactment this year, where Senator Joe Manchin’s support will be critical to ensuring that increased child care funding like that in the Murray-Kaine proposal is part of any final agreement.


Care for Our Commonwealth: The Cost of Universal, Affordable, High-Quality Early Care & Education Across Massachusetts

Key Takeaways

  • Massachusetts families depend on early care & education (ECE) to promote healthy child development and so parents can go to work knowing their children are safe. However, our ECE sector faces many systemic challenges. Care is often unaffordable and teachers are chronically underpaid. These concerns have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • High-quality ECE—including strong curriculum and supportive teaching in classrooms, professional development, small class sizes, well-compensated teachers, and full-time schedules—has been widely linked to positive benefits for kids that can carry forward into elementary school and beyond. This includes exemplary programs in Massachusetts.
  • Existing public programs, such as Head Start, state ECE subsidies, and the preschool programs offered by school districts meet some of the need, currently enrolling 91,000 children and spending $1.27 billion in public funding annually.
  • The full cost of high-quality ECE would be just over $28,000 per child each year for ages 0-4 (infants, toddlers, and preschool children), nearly double the funding of existing programs.
  • Universal high-quality ECE in Massachusetts, with affordable capped fees of no more than 7% of income and free for low-income families, would cover a total of 288,000 kids with net new costs of $5.03 billion.
  • Affordable high-quality ECE would particularly benefit families of color and low-income families who may be struggling with the high cost of care. Increases in teacher pay, benefits, and working conditions, necessary for high-quality ECE would also benefit teachers in the ECE field.
  • Like the reform of K-12 school funding in Massachusetts, funding universal ECE could be phased in over several years, with initial priority for the most under-served communities.