Cost of Child Care is a Feminist Issue

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Writing for the Berkeley alumni magazine, author Tamara Straus asks, “What Stalled the Gender Revolution? Child Care That Costs More Than College Tuition.” Here is an excerpt:

Vox reported in August that child care costs are growing at nearly twice the rate of prices economywide. A 2013 report from Child Care Aware noted that as of 2012, in 31 states and the District of Columbia, day care is more expensive than one year of public college tuition—and that was among a cohort of faculty, people with the highest levels of education.

For people with less education and lower incomes, the news is much worse. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that only one in six federally eligible children received child care assistance in 2006, the most recent year for which data are available. In the Golden State, according to a June 2014 study from the California Budget Project, funding for child care and preschool was cut by roughly 40 percent (after adjusting for inflation) compared to 2007–08. The result? Approximately 110,000 child care and preschool slots disappeared—a decline of nearly one-quarter since the Great Recession. There are just too many studies to cite here showing that when parents can’t find affordable child care, they give up working or looking for work.

Even at Berkeley, mecca of progressive politics, full-time day care for infants is $2,060 a month, $1,846 for toddlers, and $1,528 for Pre-K. * * *

If we are stuck with a system that privileges small government (except for military expenses) and low taxes (particularly for the rich), we certainly will never be able to afford subsidized childcare. And if we continue to uphold a corporate culture that pushes workers to sacrifice family time for continued employment and/or higher earnings, care for children will remain in a vise. This vise, as Hochschild points out, devalues human connection and care. It also ignores the vast demographic changes in employment and American families over the last 40 years, and can be used by conservatives and traditionalists to blame women and poor people for society’s failings.

Feminism isn’t a prominent social movement in this country anymore. And one reason for this is blazingly clear: We don’t have an affordable, taxpayer-subsidized system of infant-to-12 child care that levels the playing field for all women, their partners, and their children. What we have is elite women (and men) blathering on about choice, and billionaire executives passing themselves off as role models for working women, while refusing to acknowledge, let alone celebrate the women who help raise their children and manage their homes.

Read the full post here.

-Bridget Crawford

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