Universal childcare and preschool as a key to improving income mobility

Lane Kenworthy has a great op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor on the need for more government spending on kids.

In this op-ed, he argues that

 “The single most valuable step lawmakers could take [to increase opportunity for children from low-income families] would be to implement universal childcare and preschool.”

Kenworthy makes a concise case that this is needed because of social trends: increased social problems in low-income families, coupled with upper-income parents investing more in preschool education, and all of this taking place in a labor market that values skills more. We can’t easily solve all the problems of low-income families, but we know that high-quality childcare and preschool will help.

Kenworthy points to the experience of Denmark and Sweden, which provide paid family leave after the birth of a child, followed by subsidized child care and preschool, with fees for families capped at 10% of family income.  He argues that in these countries, the evidence suggests that adult success is less dependent on the fortunes of birth.

Finally, Kenworthy argues, similar to arguments I have made in the past, that investing in early childhood programs will help make economic opportunity more equal even if this is financed by broad-based taxes that include all income groups.

Kenworthy’s entire op-ed is well worth reading, as are his various books.

About timbartik

Tim Bartik is a senior economist at the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, a non-profit and non-partisan research organization in Kalamazoo, Michigan. His research specializes in state and local economic development policies and local labor markets.
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