Three research projects making a big splash in the social sciences last year build a strong case for addressing the child care needs of families with kids of all ages through policies like Minnesota’s Basic Sliding Fee Child Care Assistance.
Basic Sliding Fee lowers a family’s cost of child care for children from birth through age 12, helping parents get to school or work secure in the knowledge that their kids are in a stable, supportive environment. Unfortunately, due to a lack of state investment, Basic Sliding Fee currently has a waiting list with the names of more than 7,000 working families that are struggling to afford child care.
The age range covered by Basic Sliding Fee is one of several strengths that make it a vital resource for families. Research in 2015 builds on the already-strong evidence that older kids benefit when their families have more resources. The three pieces I’m referring to are:
- $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America by Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaefer, which combines rigorous systems-level statistical analysis with extremely powerful personal stories. The authors walk through two decades of policy changes and explore institutional barriers to economic stability. They then share the stories of the people who are actually impacted by these high-level changes. Some of the most powerful passages tell the story of working parents trying their best to support their kids but being undercut at nearly every corner by a lack of basic financial resources. In one particularly heart-wrenching story, a woman’s lack of affordable, reliable child care contributes to her family’s instability with dire consequences for her daughter, who is abused by someone the mother thought she could trust.
- Two studies released by The Equality of Opportunity Project, which use data on millions of families to show that different parts of the country offer vastly different opportunities for kids born into low-income families. The authors’ work showed that school-age kids who moved to higher-opportunity areas did better later in life. At a talk to the Center on Children and Families, one of the authors explicitly tied this finding to the importance of child care policies.
- How Does Household Income Affect Child Personality Traits and Behaviors?, which details the big impact of a sudden increase in income for families with school-age children living in the Smoky Mountains. When families were under less stress around simply making ends meet, their kids displayed fewer social or emotional problems.
The examples cited above demonstrate that when a family has more resources to meet their daily needs, their kids have a better chance at success. You don’t need an advanced degree in economics to read between the lines of these reports. Affordable, reliable child care can be a decisive factor in a parent’s ability to advance their career, and in their child’s ability to understand their math homework. And when families can access Basic Sliding Fee, families are more likely to find the child care that they need for kids and parents alike to succeed.