Out Of Iowa

High-quality child care is out of reach for Iowa families.

High-Quality Child Care Is Out Of Reach For Iowa Families

Having a child has always been expensive, and it turns out it is only getting worse: from 2000 to 2012, child care costs for a typical middle class family skyrocketed by 30 percent. Still, child care has often been dismissed as solely a women’s issue and left out of the national political debate. But, according to a new poll commissioned by CAP’s WithinReach campaign, that could hurt presidential candidates: a plurality of Iowa caucusgoers are more likely to choose a candidate who prioritizes policies for working families.

The poll, which surveyed likely Iowa caucusgoers, lays out what we already know is true: having a child isn’t cheap and access to affordable child care is an economic necessity. Three out of five caucusgoers—including 88 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of Republicans—say access to high-quality child care and pre-K are a necessity for families and the economy. But a majority—70 percent—say childcare is too expensive and out of reach for working- and middle-class families.

Those numbers shouldn’t be too surprising given the fact that Iowa families, like families across the country, are facing skyrocketing prices of child care. The average child care costs for an infant and a four year old in Iowa is more $17,000 a year. And Iowa isn’t alone. In fact, in all 50 states, child care costs more than median rent. And in 31 states and DC, it costs more than college. Additionally, 76 percent of Iowa children under 6 have both parents in the workforce, increasing their need for family-friendly workplace policies. Hear stories from Iowa families struggling with out-of-reach child care costs in this video.

Support for policies that would help put child care within reach is also high in Iowa. According to the poll, 69 percent of likely caucusgoers support workplace policies that include provisions for child care and paid family leave, while 63 percent support direct tax credits for working families to help them afford child care. In addition to paid family leave there are several policies, like the high-quality child care tax credit and universal pre-k, that would help make early education affordable for working families.

Despite the fact that child care costs are placing an increasingly large burden on the budgets of working families and the fact that support for these policies is high, there has been little forward movement to establish a public solution. The issue has barely been mentioned at all during the long presidential campaign season. But in addition to helping win the support of Iowa caucusgoers, investment in high-quality child care and early education benefits the entire economy. Equal access to high-quality child care and pre-k would increase GDP by $551 billion. Every $1 invested in early childhood education delivers $7 in public benefits.

BOTTOM LINE: Child care is a necessity, but for too many working families access to high quality child care and early education is out of reach. And while there are many issues to consider when choosing a presidential candidate, voters want to see a candidate who is committed to providing substantive solutions for the issues facing working families.

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