All of society benefits from well-behaved and well-educated children

Hans G. Despain and Karol Gil-Vasquez

Leo Tolstoy’s novel Anna Karenina begins with this provocative phrase: “All happy families are alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. Tolstoy’s novel explores the complications of family life. Tolstoy’s characters demonstrate that happy families are rare and parenthood is difficult.

Parenting and family life in the United States is not only difficult, but very expensive due to the lack of basic infrastructure and public policies to support families.

It is unfortunate because families are the lifeblood of society and must be protected and nurtured. If family life worsens, the economy stalls, while crime and social ills arise.

Despite hard work, a third of American households report being unable to pay their bills. American workers have faced stagnant wages for decades, and the White House has warned that despite the high growth rates expected after the pandemic and rising prices, wage growth is expected to decline in the 12 to Next 18 months. 85% of American parents report spending 10% or more of their household income on child care. 95% of colleges are unaffordable for low-income households. And according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the United States ranks 37th out of 41 countries for enrollment of children aged 3 to 5 in preschool education.

The difficulties of parenthood in the United States may explain why fertility rates have fallen in the United States for more than a decade, reaching an all-time low in 2018, again in 2019, and again in 2020. The fertility rate , the number of children a woman had in her lifetime was 2.12 in 2007; it fell to 1.64 in 2020. When the fertility rate drops below 2.1 the population will decline without immigration.

Low fertility is not necessarily economically detrimental, but in the absence of an appropriate public policy, low fertility tends to slow economic growth and strain the federal budget to meet the needs of the child. retirement and health care of an older generation when the current generation of working age has shrunk. Low fertility certainly suggests that starting and supporting a family in the United States is difficult and too expensive.

The pandemic has revealed the urgent need to address our child care shortage. For more than a decade, there has been a dearth of affordable child care across the country. Without affordable child care, Americans, especially mothers, cannot work. Researchers from the University of Minnesota and the Center for American Progress show that before the pandemic, 51% of Americans lived in an area with very inadequate child care options, or “child care deserts” .

The pandemic has wreaked havoc on an already precarious national child care system. Economists warn that up to 50% of child care providers will fail without government help. If allowed, it would widen “child care deserts” and force millions of parents, mostly mothers and older workers, out of the workforce. When a worker leaves the workplace, it harms their career prospects and reduces household income. This further harms business productivity, reduces revenues and profits, and slows economic growth.

All of this will distort the US economy for a generation, cutting consumer and investment spending and lowering growth rates.

President Biden’s American Families Plan is a pro-family policy to avoid economic distortions caused by low fertility and a shortage of child care. Low-income families typically spend 10-20% of household income on child care. AFP limits childcare to 7% of family income with expanded tax credits for childcare services.

Almost all education experts agree that preschool is the most effective strategy for improving later school performance. Rich families massively enroll their children in nursery school, while weak and middle-income families struggle to access it. AFP suggests that all American children have access to a high-quality preschool program from the age of 3. Teachers in these new universal preschool programs would have comparable qualifications to K-12 teachers and would be remunerated on a comparable basis.

Many parents of working newborns have to return to work too early and struggle to balance the health and well-being of the family with the need for financial security. AFP offers paid parental leave for a newborn or adoption. Research shows that paid parental leave offers compelling benefits for parents, children and societies in the countries that offer it. The United States is the only wealthy country that does not offer a national paid parental leave program. 82% of Americans support access to paid parental leave.

AFP proposes that the community college be free for all Americans. This will not only increase the number of Americans capable of earning an associate’s degree, but will encourage millions of Americans to complete their first two years of college, for free, at a community college, and then transfer their credits to. a four-year college or university to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Happy and healthy families are the building blocks of healthy societies and must be nurtured and protected.

All of society benefits from well-behaved and well-educated children.

Family-friendly policies promote healthy child development, encourage engaged and caring citizens, are an investment in achieving societal goals such as lower unemployment, a more productive workforce, economic growth and less crime.

Free child care and preschool, free community college, and parental leave are policies that make parenting easier, the workforce is getting more skilled, and Americans are getting smarter. These policies will increase GDP, generate economic growth and increase household incomes. Most importantly, they support families and strengthen American society.

Hans G. Despain, Ph.D., is Professor of Economics and Chair of the Economics Program at Nichols College

Karol Gil-Vasquez, Ph.D., is the Keith T. Anderson Associate Professor of Economics at Nichols College


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