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"Child care now costs more than rent and in-state college tuition in most states," writes Make It Works' Vivien Labaton.  (Photo: Georgia Southern/flickr/cc)

Sanders is Right. The Childcare System in the US is a Disaster

New Pew survey finds that 62% of parents say that it’s hard to find affordable and quality child care in their community.

Andrea Germanos

One presidential hopeful's assessment is that the child care system in the U.S. is disastrous. And based on the findings of a new survey, many working parents in the U.S. have reason to agree.

The Pew Research Center report, which surveyed over 1,800 parents of kids under 18, offered a reflection of the widening inequality gripping the country. It found, for example, that wealthier families were almost twice as likely as lower-income parents to say their neighborhood is an "excellent" or "very good" place to raise kids. It also showed that those in lower income families expressed far more worries about their children being victims of violence.

The survey looked at child care views as well, and showed that nearly half (48 percent) of working parents with at least one child under school age say their children attend day care or preschool.

It presents a problem across the board; sixty-two percent of parents across all income groups with infants or preschool-age children say that it’s hard to find affordable and quality child care in their community.

There's a difference across income groups for where the child care takes place. While most working parents (66 percent) with annual family incomes of $75,000 or above say their young children attend day care centers or preschools, those earning less than $30,000 are more likely (57 percent) to have those care needs met by family members.

As most working parents know, child care can be quite expensive. Vivien Labaton, co-founder and co-director of Make It Work, wrote at the New Republic Wednesday:

Child care now costs more than rent and in-state college tuition in most states, leading to women dropping out of the workforce for the first time in years; millennials have put off having kids; parents are declining promotions or taking lower-paying jobs so they don’t lose the childcare assistance they need to earn a living and make sure their children receive quality care.

Having children isn’t like buying a whirlpool bathtub or a fancy car, and it certainly should not be reserved for the wealthy. Childcare and other supports for working families are an investment in our future and the country we want to be.

That's a perspective championed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, who earlier this year called the nation's child care system a "disaster" and said that the wealthiest should be taxed more to fund early childhood programs. Sanders has said that his agenda would also include paid family leave.

That need was just underscored in a damning review by a group of United Nations experts.

They called out the U.S. for being one of just two countries in the world that lacks a mandatory paid maternity leave for all women workers. The group of experts also stated that "affordable and accessible" childcare should be provided by "the public budget."


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