People often frame affordable childcare as a partisan issue, but the truth is Americans are not so divided when it comes to wanting affordable childcare.
As Motherly reported earlier this month, the United States is experiencing a childcare crisis that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are rightfully concerned about. Politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, are concerned because their constituents are concerned.
A new survey from Next100 and GenForward shows 72% of Gen Z and Millennials say a lack of quality, affordable childcare is a barrier to achieving their career goals and more than 8 in 10 (81%) say access to child care is important.
And it’s not just those who identify as left-leaning, politically. The majority of Republicans surveyed (79%) agreed with the 86% of Democrats on the importance of affordable childcare. It also isn’t only parents who feel this way: 76% of those who don’t have kids consider affordable childcare important. In fact, the lack of affordable childcare is a factor in why some of these younger Americans are not parents. Almost nine out of 10 (87%) of those surveyed say the cost of childcare is an important factor when determining whether or not to become a parent.
This shouldn’t be news in 2020.
Way back in 2013, Stewart D. Friedman, founding director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Baby Bust: New Choices for Men and Women in Work and Family, was among those ringing this alarm.
Friedman studied the attitudes of undergrads in 2012 and compared the answers to those given by undergrads in 1992. In 20 years, there was a remarkable difference in the future American college students could see for themselves.
As Friedman explained in a 2013 interview, “What just popped off the screen as we were looking at the initial findings was the result in response to the question, ‘Do you plan to have or adopt children?’ In 1992, 78% said, ‘Yes.’ In 2012, 42% said, ‘Yes.'”
“The cost of child care is one of the factors causing young people to opt out of parenthood—and that’s a problem,” Friedman explained. “It’s a problem that can be solved in terms of what the private sector can do, and what government can do to improve child care infrastructure and paid family leave.”
In the years since Friedman called the United States childcare system “embarrassing” and “tragic” compared to systems in countries where early childhood education and care is heavily subsidized, little has been done to help young people see parenthood as a sustainable financial path. It’s just gotten worse.
The Next100 and GenForward data shows 75% of Gen Z and Millennial women and 68% of Millennial and Gen Z men say “that the lack of access to affordable child care is a barrier to their professional success.”
It’s time for the United States to invest in the future by investing in childcare. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s recently released plan for lower cost childcare may appeal to some of these Gen Z and Millennial voters, but there are still many people in the United States who oppose federally-funded childcare schemes.
Last year, a Hill-HarrisX survey found 72% of registered voters 50 and older said day care costs should be paid by parents, not a federally funded universal childcare program or a subsidy that would halve costs.
But those voices may soon be drowned out by generations of parents and would-be parents who need support to care for the childcare that will inherit this nation.
Politicians at all levels and in all parties need to step up and listen to what these generations are saying. Or the next one may be much smaller.