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  • Ryan Wittler

The U.S. Is an “Outlier” When it Comes to Paying for Early Child Care

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According to a new report by The New York Times, parents of two-year-olds in Denmark are guaranteed a spot for their child in preschool and will never pay more than 25% of the cost (the government covers the rest). In France, parents get up to 85% of the cost of child care covered until their kid reaches two or three years old. In Germany, depending on the city or state, early child care is completely free.

Then there’s us. Here, while the other 37 wealthy nations in the intergovernmental Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development are routinely spending around 0.7% of its GDP on child care for children two and under, we spend just 0.2%.

That comes to about $200 per year for most families (the amount is higher for lower-income ones), typically in the form of the once-per-year child tax credit. For comparison, Denmark, the country kicking the most American ass in this area, annually spends about $23,000 per child on care for children up to two years old.

Why it matters:

According to the First Five Years Fund (FFYF), an organization whose mission is to ensure all children from birth through age five have access to high-quality child care, investing in the area just makes sense.

For example, according to FFYF, for every dollar invested in early childhood education programs, up to $7.30 is generated for the economy, and since the availability of such programs is attractive to parents, that same dollar can increase local property values by $13.

FFYF also points to evidence showing that high-quality child care improves labor productivity because parents miss fewer work days. It also has long-term benefits like reducing the number of children who have to repeat grades, and lowers the rates of incarceration, arrests for violent crimes, and the likelihood of requiring government assistance.

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