Child care issues in Louisiana hurting workers and employers, study finds

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SAVE THE CHILDREN CANADA / CREATIVE COMMONS 2.0
  • SAVE THE CHILDREN CANADA / CREATIVE COMMONS 2.0

A wide-ranging survey of families with children age 4 and under in Louisiana found that lack of consistent access to child care is hurting workers, cutting into state tax revenues and costing Louisiana employers $816 million a year via absences and employee turnover.

The study, which was released May 1 by Louisiana Policy Institute for Children (LPIC) and Louisiana State University's Public Policy Research Lab, is the first of its kind to focus on workplace productivity as it relates to child care in the state, its authors said. Its findings describe a landscape in which half of survey respondents are relying on their child's parent or another family member to provide child care during the work day. One in six study respondents had quit a job as a result of child care issues; many who answered the survey described leaving full-time employment to pursue part-time employment or turning down promotions due to problems with child care.

"[As a result of child care issues], the decline in income among working parents percolates throughout the state economy," the report said. "[It impacts] local businesses through decreased spending and consequent ripple effects (e.g., lower rates of hiring, need for fewer goods, etc.) and results in a $1.1 billion annual loss to the state's economy."

This study appears at a time when access to child care (and its twinned issue, paid parental leave) has surfaced as a key political discussion in the U.S. According to OECD data, American families pay a higher proportion of their incomes in child care costs than that of almost any other industrialized country. The cost of full-time day care recently eclipsed the cost of in-state college tuition. Some families are deciding it's cheaper to have a parent stay home full-time than to pay for day care — a precarious situation which can permanently hobble the career and lifetime earnings of the parent who leaves the work force. (And for single parents, of course, this isn't even an option.)

Beyond the problems of individuals and families have as they juggle the demands of child care and employment, the LPIC report highlights the net impact of inconsistent child care access on the state's economy. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data counts 272,439 people, or 17 percent of the state's workers, with small children. When those employees can't come to work or have to quit their jobs to care for a child, employers are burdened with overtime costs, wages for temporary employees and the costs of training new employees when workers depart.

In a news release accompanying the study, LPIC director Melanie Bronfin said state legislators could help remedy this problem by restoring funding to the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP), a program which subsidizes child care payments for low-income households. (The program's funding has been cut in recent years.) She also suggests an expansion of the School Readiness Tax Credits, which provide tax credits from the state for child care costs.

Similar solutions are on the table in Washington, D.C., where access to child care is said to be a signature issue of President Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka. Last week, the White House released a tax plan which proposed an expansion of federal tax credits for child care expenses, though some have criticized that plan as benefiting higher-earning families more than middle-class and poor families.


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