Social networks are economic foundations


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“Why I won’t support the additional $ 3.5 trillion spending… There is no rush to do it right now. We have no urgency. Don’t you think we should debate a little more, talk about it and see what we have there? “

– Senator Joe Manchin in the Wall Street Journal

It’s time to change the rhetoric about investing in social infrastructure for families. We do not agree with people like Senator Manchin. There is an urgent need for our country to invest in high quality care, family leave and universal kindergarten, not only because it helps children to thrive in early high quality environments, but because it empowers parents. to enter the labor market, raising families out of poverty. . Remarkably, in 2017, the United States ranked 30th out of 33 member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development in public spending on families and children, which includes policies such as payments and child allowances, parental leave benefits and childcare. Support. A 2019 study by the Pew Research Center noted that of 41 industrial countries surveyed, only the United States did not have a policy regarding paid parental leave.

The $ 3.5 trillion bill currently before the United States Congress could go a long way in aligning the United States with other industrialized countries around the world. He calls for a universal pre-K program for ages 3 and 4; improved child care for working families, a total of 12 weeks of guaranteed parental, family and personal leave and a child tax credit totaling $ 3,600 for each child under 6 and $ 3,000 for each under the age of 18.

What science shows about social infrastructure policies

Scientific evidence shows why investments in each of these policies are an investment in the future, not only in the long term when it comes to children’s outcomes, but in the short term when it comes to parental employment. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the problem. Women made up half of the workforce in 2020, a number that fell 56% after the pandemic. When child care was not available, women became the default option, drastically reducing family income. Reduced family income appears to lead to lower social and cognitive outcomes for children. Current work by Professor Kim Nobel and his team investigates, through a randomized controlled study, whether stipends of $ 20 to $ 333 per month would increase children’s educational outcomes, as previous research has clearly shown. .

Science is also talking about the improved long-term outcomes of high-quality child care, family leave, and universal pre-kindergarten for children. With regard to early childhood care, the evidence is substantial. Perry and Abecedarian’s small-scale research experiments demonstrated that high-quality child care could lead to higher levels of education, employment, and health, and lower levels of incarceration in the community. adulthood. These studies have shown that participants’ lives can be changed through responsive, supportive and empowering childcare experiences. The larger-scale infant health and development program noted similar benefits when combined with home visits. These programs emphasized high quality language interactions (conversations, shared book readings and rich vocabulary), nutrition (prenatal and beyond) and healthy parenting strategies (eating and sleeping routines, strategies for dealing with bad behavior, etc.). A large and comprehensive study of early childhood care, the NICHD Early Care Study, found that high-quality early childhood care is linked to higher scores on math and reading tests. persist for up to 15 years, and at higher levels of education and employment. at 26 years old.

Taken together, the scientific data strongly suggests that supporting families supports the economy. It helps fill jobs today and it helps prepare children for the work of tomorrow.

With respect to Paid Family Leave (PFL), several studies indicate that it improves infant health and early development, maternal well-being and longer-term maternal employment. A series of studies using rigorous quasi-experimental designs and nationally representative samples indicated that infants had higher levels of cognitive and behavioral skills when mothers spent their first six to twelve months at home with them. More recent rigorous quasi-experimental research from the California PFL has found improvements in overall infant health and reductions in asthma, as well as higher levels of dealing with the challenges of parenting, parenting and parenting. an increased likelihood that skilled women will return and remain in the labor market after the birth of their child.

Finally, large-scale studies of universal preschool highlight that rigorous, high-quality experimental programs support children through large gains in academic skills and moderate to low gains in social skills and executive functioning; follow-up studies have shown long-term gains such as slightly better academic skills in upper elementary school and higher levels of high school graduation and university entry. In addition to improving children’s outcomes, access to subsidized child care increases employment for parents of young children. Thus, research suggests that investing in family leave, increased access to high-quality child care, and universal preschool will boost children’s cognitive and social skills.

The critical shortage of child care

These promising studies from the childcare literature mask another critical problem. The American system relies on fees paid by parents for child care and thus limits the wages of child care providers. The educators who are entrusted with the youngest children in the country are, on average, paid less than $ 11 an hour. Indeed, on a list of occupations from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, educators rank just between laundry and dry cleaning workers and parking lot attendants. Daycares are now struggling to recruit teachers as they can earn more in almost any other job, leaving many centers unable to open after the pandemic. Parents of young children, especially mothers, cannot return to the workforce without child care, leaving many employers unable to fill positions. Additionally, low salaries make it difficult for programs that attempt to provide high quality care to recruit and retain highly qualified teachers.

If child care programs don’t open — or if children are placed in detention rather than high-quality environments — child care programs cannot deliver on the promise of better results. With limited access to child care, employers find it harder to fill vacant positions, families with young children face financial losses, and children lose their chance to get an academic and social boost.

Taken together, the scientific data strongly suggests that supporting families supports the economy. It helps fill jobs today and it helps prepare children for the work of tomorrow.

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