The child care paradox

The child care paradox

On average, child care in America costs $10,000 per child, according to the Treasury Department. Yet the people who work in child care centers are typically paid barely above minimum wage. It’s a fundamental market failure that hurts workers, parents and especially children, who can reap lifelong benefits from high quality child care that prepares them for school. The New York Times’ Jason DeParle looks at the “child care paradox” and explains why child care subsidies are a critical part of the budget plan being debated on Capitol Hill. 

The huge social policy bill being pushed by President Biden would cap families’ child care expenses at 7 percent of their income, offer large subsidies to child care centers, and require the centers to raise wages in hopes of improving teacher quality. A version before the House would cost $250 billion over a decade and raise annual spending fivefold or more within a few years. An additional $200 billion would provide universal prekindergarten. “This would be the biggest investment in the history of child care,” said Stephanie Schmit, a child care expert at the Center for Law and Social Policy, a research group that supports the measure.

While the debate in Washington has broken down along partisan lines, Baton Rouge librarian Aaron Lercher, in a letter to The Advocate, notes that Louisiana would disproportionately benefit from the American Families Plan.  

Louisiana has a disproportionate number of lower-income citizens. The American Families Plan helps parents and children, especially those with lower income. Children are not an expensive consumption habit, like a preference for fine wine. Everyone in the United States, even childless people, needs children to have the best care and education because we are interdependent and economically reliant on their future success.

Into the void
Hurricane Ida destroyed more than 12,000 homes in southeast Louisiana, most of them in hardest-hit Terrebonne Parish. Empty hotel rooms in the region are nonexistent, and it might be spring before slow-moving FEMA has temporary trailers for every household that needs one. The Advocate’s Blake Paterson reports that Louisiana is trying to fill the void by distributing travel trailers and RVs so that those who survived the storm can stay closer to home as they rebuild.

The state-led effort is aimed at bridging the gap until FEMA can begin providing its own mobile homes. It won’t be until mid-November until the FEMA units start arriving and then they’ll only be placed after clearing a number of bureaucratic hurdles, such as not being in a flood zone. If last year’s recovery in Lake Charles is any marker, it could be well into April before most survivors are housed in federal assets. … The overlapping effort marks the first time Louisiana – or any other state – has been this involved in providing direct housing after a storm. If it’s successful, the program could offer a quicker roadmap for getting survivors housed following a natural disaster, with state contracts in place ahead of the event. 

Wage research wins Nobel
For decades, most economists held fast to the belief that raising the minimum wage would lead to fewer jobs, and that immigrant labor reduces wages for native-born workers. Neither of those beliefs are accurate, and the reason we know this is because of groundbreaking research by University of California at Berkeley economist David Card. His insight: conducting “natural experiments” that observed real-world data to test the outcome of policy decisions. The Associated Press reports:

In a study published in 1993, Card looked at what happened to jobs at fast-food restaurants Burger King, KFC, Wendy’s and Roy Rogers when New Jersey raised its minimum wage from $4.25 to $5.05, using restaurants in bordering eastern Pennsylvania as the control — or comparison — group. Contrary to previous studies, he and his research partner Alan Krueger, who died in 2019, found that an increase in the minimum wage had no effect on the number of employees.

Card used a similar research approach to test whether a large influx of Cuban exiles into Miami in the early 1980s affected wages for low-skilled workers who were native born. On Monday, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded Card – and two other U.S.-based economists, the Nobel Prize for Economics. 

Split over quarantine rules
The question of whether school districts or parents should decide if children exposed to Covid-19 must be quarantined has divided Louisiana school districts. Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley sparked the debate last month when, contradicting the advice of federal and state medical experts, he said parents should decide whether to send asymptomatic children to school after they’ve had close contact with someone infected by Covid. The AP’s Melinda Deslatte reports that many large districts are sticking with the stronger quarantine guidance, while others are adopting the more flexible approach. State epidemiologist Theresa Sokol insists that quarantine is still necessary in a state where 21,000 K-12 students have been diagnosed with Covid since the start of the school year. 

“The decision to quarantine cannot rest with parents of children who are at risk of spreading the disease to others; this would deprive other parents of any option to protect their children from exposure,” Sokol wrote. “In order to effectively curb COVID-19 transmission in schools, quarantine policies must be based on the best available evidence for disease control, not personal preference.”

Number of the Day
11% – Proportion of 13,818 eligible Terrebonne and Lafourche parish residents who were checked into a hotel room as of Oct. 8 (Source: The Advocate)