Conservative Media Attack Clinton Child Care Plan As Wasteful Spending, Ignoring Economic Boost For Working Families

Conservative media have mischaracterized Hillary Clinton’s policy plan to expand funding and support for child care and early education programs, suggesting the presidential nominee is offering voters “goodies,” fearmongering about government overreach in preschool programs, and ignoring the economic boost that quality early learning programs can offer. Here are the facts about the short- and long-term economic benefits of supporting greater access to quality early education programs, particularly for single mothers and low-income families. 

Hillary Clinton Pushes For Child Care And Preschool Expansion In Platform

Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton Introduced A Policy Plan To Expand Quality Child Care And Preschool Programs. In May, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton introduced several policy proposals to expand access to quality, affordable child care and to make quality preschool programs universally accessible. The proposals include measures to cap child care costs at 10 percent of a family’s income, to raise wages for early childhood educators, and to invest in federal Head Start programs and individual child care scholarships. [Politico, 5/10/16;, accessed 7/26/16]

Conservative Media Have Attacked The Plan As Wasteful Spending And Another Government “Goodie” For “Certain People”

Fox & Friends Gives Clinton “The Lowest Score We Can Give” On A “Liberty-Meter” For The “Free Stuff” In Her Child Care Spending Plan. Guest John Stossel joined Fox & Friends co-hosts Steve Doocy, Ainsley Earhardt, and Brian Kilmeade to evaluate the presidential nominees on a “liberty-meter.” Stossel awarded Clinton “a 1, the worst, lowest score we can give,” for her spending plans, citing her proposals related to child care and college affordability. Stossel claimed that “we’re going broke” while Clinton’s proposals involve “free stuff, more stuff.” Earhardt responded, “Who’s going to pay for that?” to which Stossel replied, “Beats me.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/10/16]

WSJ Editorial Board: “If Families Think Day Care And Health Care Are ‘Really Expensive’ Now, Wait Until They Have To Pay For Mrs. Clinton’s Government.” The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board responded to Clinton’s child care policy proposals by lamenting that Clinton is “methodically expanding her plans” to “subsidize those remaining spheres of human existence unspoiled by the government.” The Journal also criticized the “expensive” plan’s proposal to raise wages for early childhood educators, characterizing it as one of many politically motivated campaign moves:

Donald Trump isn’t the only presumptive presidential nominee making a turn to the left. As the political world obsesses over the Republican businessman, Hillary Clinton is methodically expanding her plans to supervise or subsidize those remaining spheres of human existence unspoiled by government.

Mrs. Clinton rolled out her latest proposal on Tuesday, which is meant to make child care more affordable for working parents and also to raise the wages of child-care workers. The Democrat didn’t mention how she’d resolve the contradiction between her cost-increasing ideas and her cost-reducing ideas, though you can bet it will be expensive.


Mrs. Clinton also feels that caregivers are paid “less than the value of their worth,” and she promises to increase their compensation. How? Why, another program of course. She’ll call it the Respect and Increased Salaries for Early Childhood Educators (Raise) Initiative, which she says is modelled after another one of her proposals, the Care Workers Initiative.

Mrs. Clinton’s new dispensations for the kids are especially notable because she has already pledged to double spending on early education, create universal pre-school and mandate 12 weeks of paid family leave. She won the “pro-family” bidding war with Bernie Sanders but won’t let it end.


If families think day care and health care are “really expensive” now, wait until they have to pay for Mrs. Clinton’s government. [The Wall Street Journal, 5/11/16]

Fox Panel Concluded Clinton’s Early Child Care Plan Is A “Slippery Slope” Of “Goodies” For “Certain People.” A Fox News panel dismissed Clinton’s early child care plan, agreeing that “the federal government is already administering” early learning programs and that “America has found a way to rally around their neighbors and their friends and families to make sure the kids make it OK.” Fox’s Charles Payne wondered about the program, “Are we saying to certain people, hey, if you’re in a certain income bracket, every time you have a child, society, i.e. the taxpayer, will take care of it?” [Fox News, Your World With Neil Cavuto, 5/10/16]

Fox’s Eric Bolling Suggested Working Parents Should Rely On “Religion” And “Donations From Others” To Help With Child Care. During a discussion about rising child care costs on Fox News’ The Five, co-host Eric Bolling argued against government spending on quality child care -- a central part of Clinton's plan -- and said, “If you can’t afford to have children, then you shouldn’t be having children.” Bolling claimed that parents “who decide to have kids who can’t afford to have kids” should seek out “religion,” “donations,” and “certain social service nets.” Co-host Geraldo Rivera quickly responded, “That’s so harsh, and you don’t believe it.” [Fox News, The Five, 4/15/16]

But Research Shows Rising Child Care Costs Are Limiting The Economic Power Of Low-Income Women And Families

National Women’s Law Center: Lack Of Child Care Leaves Parents In Poverty “Trapped In Low-Wage Jobs” And Hurts Children. The National Women’s Law Center identified child care as one major issue disproportionately affecting low-wage workers. The center’s recent report on “the strain that low-wage working parents experience” outlined the struggle they face to balance child care needs with work schedules, which leaves low-wage working parents with fewer options for advancement in the workforce to boost their economic power. From the executive summary of the 2016 report:

High-quality early care and education can help ameliorate the effects of poverty and instability and support children’s healthy development. But with limited incomes and volatile schedules, parents in low-wage jobs have tremendous difficulty finding and affording high-quality early care and education—and child care assistance and other federally and state-funded early childhood programs are often unavailable for these parents or not designed to meet their needs. Parents already struggling to balance their inflexible, unpredictable schedules with their child care needs are also unlikely to be able to find the time or resources to take on training or education that could help them improve their job prospects. As a result, too many parents find themselves trapped in low-wage jobs with no viable route to better work—while their young children grow up in an environment of poverty, instability, and stress.


Finding child care—much less high-quality child care—can be challenging for any parent; it can be next to impossible for parents with nonstandard or irregular work schedules. Parents may have tremendous difficulty finding a provider available to care for their children during early morning, evening, overnight, or weekend hours, or able to accommodate a constantly shifting schedule. And if a parent in a low-wage job does manage to find child care that meets her scheduling needs and that offers the type of environment she wants for her child, she may not be able to afford it: the average fee for full-time care ranges from slightly under $3,700 to over $17,000 a year—nearly one-fifth to over three-quarters of a full-time working parent’s annual income if she earns
$10.50 per hour.

While child care assistance can help families pay for child care, it may be difficult for parents to access this assistance due to eligibility criteria that are incompatible with variable work schedules (and resulting variable incomes), administrative hurdles, and long waiting lists, among other factors. [National Women’s Law Center, Set Up To Fail: When Low-Wage Work Jeopardizes Parents’ and Children’s Success, 1/28/16]

Economic Policy Institute: Quality Early Child Care Is “Out Of Reach For Working Families,” Can Take Up A Large Part Of Family Budget. A recent report from the Economic Policy Institute found that “child care costs account for a significant portion of family budgets” across family types, income levels, and geographic locations. The report concluded that “child care is particularly unaffordable for minimum-wage workers,” calculating that:

  • The high cost of child care means that a full-time, full-year minimum-wage worker with one child falls far below the family budget threshold in all 618 family budget areas—even after adjusting for higher state and city minimum wages
  • Among families with young children, child care costs constitute a large share of annual earnings for families living off one full-time, full-year minimum-wage income. For example, to meet the demands of infant care costs for a year, a minimum-wage worker in Hawaii—the state with the median state minimum wage ($7.75)—would have to devote his or her entire earnings from working full time (40 hours a week) from January until September. [Economic Policy Institute, High quality child care is out of reach for working families, 10/6/15]

Raising Care Workers’ And Educators’ Pay Gives A Boost To A Diverse Workforce Living In Economic Insecurity. Policy plans like Clinton’s, which proposes raising wages for early childhood educators in order to boost program quality, can also result in short-term economic gains, according to the Center for the Study of Childcare Employment at the University of California, Berkeley. A 2014 policy report from the center found that members of the early childhood workforce -- a field predominantly made up of women and people of color -- disproportionately experience “economic insecurity” and rely on government benefits to get by. From the report (citations removed):

Since 1989, several investigations have identified the negative consequences of low teacher pay for early care and education programs’ capacity to attract educated and skilled teachers, stem turnover, and make program improvements that are necessary for best supporting children’s learning and development. Yet the toll that poor compensation takes on the well-being of early childhood teachers themselves has received far less attention. Many have children of their own, many are employed full-time—and many struggle economically, often to feed and house their own families. [Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, Worthy Work, STILL Unlivable Wages: The Early Childhood Workforce 25 Years after the National Child Care Staffing Study, 2014]

Pew Analysis Finds Rising Child Care Costs May Shut Low-Income Women Out Of The Workforce. A Pew Research Center report found that after decades of decline, the share of mothers who do not work outside the home has risen since 2000. An accompanying analysis concluded that “one likely reason is the rising cost of child care.” The analysis pointed out that the economic burden of these costs is significantly worse for low-income mothers and families, citing a Census paper that outlined circumstances in which a mother, “unless she has fairly high earnings,” may be unable to support child care costs for her children. Earlier research from the U.S. Census also supports this theory, as reported by CNBC:

Rose Kreider, chief of the Fertility and Family Statistics Branch for the U.S. Census Bureau, said her research also suggests that instead of an “opt out revolution” involving highly educated married moms who want to leave the workforce, many moms who are younger, less educated, Hispanic and/or caring for very young children could be left out because they can't get a job that pays well enough to cover hefty child-care costs. [, 5/12/13; Pew Research Center, After Decades of Decline, A Rise in Stay-at-Home Mothers, 4/8/14]

Investing In Quality Early Child Care Yields High Returns For The Future Workforce

Huff. Post: “Clinton’s Child Care Plan Could Get Very Expensive And Be Totally Worth It.” After the Clinton campaign announced its proposal to cap child care costs at 10 percent of a family’s income in May, Huffington Post senior national correspondent Jonathan Cohn reported on the economic costs and benefits of the policy. Cohn outlined a body of research that shows “such a substantial investment in early childhood is long overdue” because of its benefits for children in the short and long term:

Research on early childhood suggests that the spending tends to pay off in the long run, since it means future workforces are more productive — and less likely to require remedial education, public assistance or attention from the criminal justice system.

The crude version of this, which every advocate repeats, is that every $1 of spending on early childhood care yields $8 in future returns. That’s probably optimistic, in the sense that it assumes all children are getting exceptionally high-quality early childhood programs with exceptionally talented instructors. But there’s lots of reason to think that spending more on early childhood now would yield larger returns later. [The Huffington Post, 5/18/16]

Center for American Progress: Federal Investment In Early Education “Supports The Future Workforce” And Keeps The U.S. Globally Competitive. A policy proposal for a new child care tax credit from the left-leaning Center for American Progress noted that the United States’ lack of investment in early child care could limit its global competitiveness because quality early care can help boost employment in the short term and “supports the future workforce by preparing children for school.” From the 2015 report (citations removed):

The United States stands to lose economic ground to its global competitors absent policy to address child care. High-quality child care is an important tool to increase the size of the workforce by helping families maintain employment, and it supports the future workforce by preparing children for school. Unfortunately, current child care policy in the United States represents a missed opportunity when it comes to reaching these goals. [Center for American Progress, A New Vision for Child Care in the United States, September 2015]

Report: Quality Early Childhood Programs Spur Economic Development, Can Have High Returns On Investment “Over A Child’s Entire Life.” A child care advocacy organization, Child Care Aware, noted in its annual report on the costs and availability of child care in the United States that “child care is a sound investment” for children and communities. The report summarized existing research on the economic benefits of these programs (citations removed):

Early childhood programs have been shown to have a profound effect on disadvantaged children. Governors and legislators, law enforcement officials, and business leaders see quality child care as vital to the nation’s economy and security. Investments made when children are very young will generate returns that accrue over a child’s entire life. Research has shown that high-quality early childhood programs contribute to stronger families, greater economic development and more-livable communities. Economists have estimated the rate of return for high-quality early intervention to be in the range of 6-10 percent per annum for children in disadvantaged families, and long-term returns on investment as high as 16 percent. [Child Care Aware of America, Parents and the High Cost of Child Care, 2015]

Existing Research Shows Early Learning Expansion Would Return More Than $8 For Every $1 Spent. A 2014 report from the president’s Council of Economic Advisers estimated that expanding affordable, quality early child care programs would “provide benefits to society of roughly $8.60 for every $1 spent.” This estimate includes short-term economic benefits for working parents, positive impacts on children’s growth and development, and long-term effects on children’s eventual employment and earnings. The report concluded:

As this report has demonstrated, high-quality early childhood education programs offer long-term benefits that far outweigh costs. Interventions that occur very early in childhood, like home visiting programs for mothers with new infants, as well as high-quality early care and education, improve kindergarten readiness, which itself predicts success in later schooling. Studies in the U.S. and a number of other countries show that access to quality child care can help mothers participate in the labor force and, when subsidies for care are available, can boost family income.

High-quality preschool programs for three- and four-year-old children can also build a strong skills foundation for school, as well as help meet child care needs of working parents. [Council Of Economic Advisers, The Economics of Early Childhood Investments, December 2014]

Quality Early Learning Programs Can Set Up Black, Hispanic, And Low-Income Students For Later Academic And Economic Success. Recent research from the Center for American Progress and the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University argued that expanding access to quality preschool programs can help alleviate gaps in opportunities and achievement for low-income, black, and Hispanic students. The report concluded:

The analysis presented in this report further supports that high-quality UPK [universal prekindergarten] could dramatically reduce or even eliminate gaps in reading and math achievement at kindergarten entry between children of color—specifically African American and Hispanic children—and their white peers, as well as gaps between low-income children and their higher-income peers.


Ensuring that all children enter kindergarten with the skills they need to succeed—and thereby reducing or eliminating achievement gaps at kindergarten entry—is a critical first step in closing academic achievement gaps in later grades, gaps in graduation rates, and potential pay disparities later in life. High-quality universal pre-kindergarten has the potential to reduce these gaps and should be a priority for federal policymakers as they seek to give all children a fair shot at success. [Center for American Progress and National Institute for Early Education Research, How Much Can High-Quality Universal Pre-K Reduce Achievement Gaps?, April 2016]