Childcare Deserts Force More Americans Out of the Workforce
March 14, 2018Sam Stebbins
High costs are a significant barrier to finding child care and staying in the workforce, but this is not the only problem that working families face. Often, rising rates can be linked to the closure of child care centers and a lack of available providers. The Guardian reports that “childcare deserts” are forcing more people (women, in particular) out.
High childcare costs create complicated issues
Across the entire US, childcare costs have risen. Today, about 1.4 million families spend more than 10% of their income on child care. That is approximately one in four families with young children. Additionally, 52.3% of working poor families are “cost burdened by child care,” according to the University of New Hampshire Carsey School of Public Policy.
Many other advanced economies share childcare costs between parents and their employers, labor unions, or the government. In the US, state and federal childcare subsidy programs are limited and do not offer support to a majority of families. As a result, child care becomes unaffordable for families who do not qualify for assistance but do not earn enough to pay for full-time, quality care.
This speaks to the complex problem of child care. Workers and providers need increased salaries to stay in the industry, but families often cannot afford these increased costs. This can lead to childcare workers and providers to leave their jobs, and centers to close.
Too few providers
Rising costs, among other factors, have resulted in the prevalence of “childcare deserts,” or areas where “the number of children under age five outnumber available daycare slots more than three to one.”
These childcare deserts are unfortunately common. According to researchers at the Center for American Progress, 51% of the population lives in a childcare desert.
Childcare concerns forcing women out of the workforce
Living in childcare deserts leads many families to rely on relatives or unlicensed providers or change their work schedules to accommodate childcare. Often, the majority of caregiving responsibilities falls on mothers, and many women are forced to leave the workforce altogether.
In fact, research shows that “it was access to affordable, reliable childcare, not flexible hours or new parent leave, that played the biggest role in closing the gender wage gap and ensuring that new mothers could remain in the workforce.”