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Opinion: There Are No Losers When We Invest in Early Child Care

June 11, 2018
Rick Santorum and George Miller
The Hill

Sixty percent of Americans say they expect the next generation will be “worse off” than their own.

That profound sense of pessimism was perhaps the most startling finding of a recent national survey on views about early childhood development.

The reasons for this loss of confidence in a brighter future are complex. For one, changes in the workplace and society as a whole have created new and often difficult trade-offs for working families. Forty percent of American children under the age of five today grow up in families that earn less than $50,000 per year, and 70 percent live in households where all resident adults work.

For millions of parents juggling low-wage jobs, it’s a daily struggle to provide the basics, from housing and food to adequate medical care, let alone to afford high-quality child care. In many cases, these pressures and stresses are most acute just at the time when children are going through critical periods of cognitive and emotional development — years that lay the foundation for later learning and career success.

The good news is that the survey, conducted for the Bipartisan Policy Center, also found broad support for efforts to ensure that all children get a strong start in life.

By wide margins, liberal and conservative respondents alike expressed concern about the high cost of quality child care; agreed that many parents have too little time to spend with their children; felt that all children should be guaranteed the shelter, food, education and care needed to thrive; and supported programs to help child care workers earn a living wage. Importantly, a majority (54 percent) said they would be willing to pay higher taxes for programs that help children, even if those programs don’t directly benefit them.