Heritage Foundation policy expert Rachel Greszler recently testified before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs regarding the issue of government-run child care.
Greszler is a research fellow in economics, budget, and entitlements for Heritage’s Grover M. Hermann Center for the Federal Budget. She specializes in research analyzing taxes, Social Security, disability insurance, and pensions to promote economic growth.
At the hearing, “The Role of Child Care in an Equitable Post-Pandemic Economy,” Greszler drew on her extensive experience working with labor and family leave issues to offer insight on why government-run solutions to child care are not the answer.
“If there is one thing that I’ve learned,” Greszler said, “it is that there is no single work-family balance nor child care setting that is best for everyone."
Greszler stated a clear case for why a centralized approach to child care programs would only increase the costs and decrease the variety of programs parents can choose from.
Past research has highlighted how current government subsidized child care, like Head Start, have provided little to no individual improvement to children.
“Head Start costs as much as full-time child care but often only provides half as many hours,” Greszler testified to Congress. “Families should be able to take that money to a provider that works better for them.”
Greszler also discusses Quebec’s “$5-a-day" subsidy for child care. While this program improved employment rates among single mothers, there were many reports of declined health and behaviors in the children attending the program.
According to Greszler:
“Nudging families away from their preferences could backfire as Quebec’s $5 per day subsidized child care program showed. It did increase work among young moms, and it shifted a lot of kids from family care to government care. But researchers found striking evidence that children’s health and behaviors were worse off. They had higher crime rates as teenagers and families experienced more hostility and less consistent parenting.”
In a post-pandemic world where most people are experiencing increased flexibility between work and family life, government-run subsidized child care would roll that back significantly. Even with COVID-induced unemployment, Greszler’s testimony exposed research expressing how issues in finding adequate child care are no longer significant contributors to unemployment.
“Women have already overcome what were initially disproportionate employment impacts,” said Greszler, “and a recent study actually found that child care struggles are no longer weighing unemployment declines.”
Greszler provided a few recommendations for how the government could help lower child care costs: lower taxes, cutting unhelpful childcare regulations, providing more public child care options, and allowing increased flexibility of child care settings.
“Families need to be free to pursue what’s best for them, not what politicians, government programs, or societal norms tell them to do,” added Greszler.
At the crux of her argument, it is to empower parents—not the government—to make choices for what is best for their children.