The Economics of Investing in Child Care

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“In today’s economy, when having both parents in the workforce is an economic necessity for many families, we need affordable, high-quality childcare more than ever. It’s not a nice-to-have — it’s a must-have.” President Obama, State of the Union Address, January 20, 2015

When looking for the greatest social, moral, and economic return, choosing to invest in early learning programs may be the best option in today’s U.S. economy. Early experiences are critical for providing the foundation for all future learning including cognitive, social and emotional, and behavioral development. A weak foundation may have adverse and lasting impacts well into adulthood. Studies show that children receiving high quality child care are far more likely to do well in school, obtain higher paying jobs, have fewer interactions with the judicial system, and have healthier social interactions.

President Obama, in 2013, first proposed the Preschool for All Initiative as a means to ensure that all children from low- and moderate- income households would have access to high quality child care and preschool services. High quality child care not only promotes child development but supports parents struggling to achieve work life balance, ultimately bolstering and expanding the middle class.

With the average cost of child care being between anywhere $10,000 and $12,000 per year, parents working low-wage jobs are often forced to make the impossible decision to forego employment or leave their children in unsafe, or poor quality child care environments. Providing affordable child care strengthens parents’ ability to work, advance their careers, and increase their earning potential — directly impacting the economy.

President Obama has outlined his plan to make affordable, quality child care available to every working and middle-class family by doing the following:

  • Investing in the Child Care and Development Fund that helps every eligible family with young children afford high-quality child care.
  • Increasing the maximum child care tax credit to $3,000 per young child.
  • Creating a new innovation fund to help states design programs that better serve families that face unique challenges in finding quality care, such as those in rural areas or working non-traditional hours.

In December 2014, the President gathered policymakers, school superintendents, and community leaders for the White House Summit on Early Education, putting his adaptive leadership style on full display. In choosing to actively tackle the issue of affordable child care, President Obama has mobilized people to face, rather than avoid the tough challenges of education. By creating a shared sense of purpose, the President was able to garner a collective investment of over $1 billion towards the education and development of young learners. Though the First Family may not be directly impacted by affordable child care, the President has been able to see the world through the eyes of the most vulnerable and deliver adaptive solutions that benefit the U.S. economy at large.


White House Early Childhood Learning,

White House FACT SHEET: Helping All Working Families with Young Children Afford Child Care (2015 January 21),

RIZGA, K. (2016 September 30). Child Care Is Finally Getting Some Much-Needed Regulation, But It’s Still Expensive As Hell

Harvard Center on the Developing Child: Brain Architecture,

Adaptive Leadership,