American families with young children know all too well the financial pain of child care, which costs more than college tuition in 33 states and the District of Columbia.
Both GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump and his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton have created child care platforms, singling out the issue as a pressure point for their supporters. While their plans offer relief on a number of fronts, including maternity leave and reducing the cost of child care, the differences in how each would affect a typical American family are startling, according to new research from Care.com.
A typical family would save $4,241 per child on child-care center costs under Clinton’s plan, while Trump’s plan would offer a savings of $1,435. The gap grows wider when considering in-home care, such as hiring a nanny. Here’s where Clinton provides $23,006 in savings, while Trump offers $1,435, the Care.com study found.
When it comes to maternity leave, under Trump’s plan new moms would receive six weeks of paid maternity leave after the birth or adoption of a child, with the mother receiving the same income she would collect in unemployment benefits had she been fired, the report noted. Under Clinton’s plan, new mothers and fathers would receive 12 weeks of paid leave after the birth or adoption of a child, at a rate of two-thirds their regular salary.
Because Trump’s plan is tied to unemployment benefits, it’s unlikely that middle- or upper-income mothers would receive anywhere near their full salaries during those six weeks of paid leave. Unemployment benefits, which are set by each state, range from a low of $240 per week in Arizona to about $700 in Massachusetts. The median weekly pay in the U.S. is $827, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Trump’s child care plan would benefit the richest American families, those in the top 1 percent of earners. These families, who make more than $389,000 annually, would save $3,164 per year on both in-center and at-home child care, or more than double the savings provided to median-income families, the report found.
Still, Care.com said it couldn’t say which plan is more family friendly, because of the complexity of each family’s individual situation.
“Whether a family will save more under Trump’s plan or Clinton’s plan will depend on a number of variables, including their household income, the number of children, age of their children and employment status of the parents, so it’s difficult to make a straight comparison between the two plans,” the company said in a statement.
Americans are increasingly scrambling to find affordable quality child care, thanks to the rising costs of day care centers and nursery schools as well as household income that still hasn’t recovered to its prerecession level. The U.S. has taken a market approach to the issue, unlike K-12 education, which is largely funded by taxpayers.
That not only places a financial strain on families until their children are old enough to enroll in kindergarten, but it may be creating an education gap between poor American kids and wealthier families who can afford quality care. Children from less well-off families are entering kindergarten with lagging “non-cognitive” skills, such as self-control, and academic ability,.
What about the costs of Trump’s plan versus Clinton’s? Clinton would use tax increases on the rich to help pay for family leave, while Trump would rely on unemployment insurance to cover mothers’ six weeks of pay. Because of “limited details,” it’s difficult to say exactly how much taxpayers might shoulder to cover either plan, according to Child Care Aware.
It might be hard to stomach higher taxes to pay for child care benefits, but it’s one area that has a high return on investment. The EPI noted that investing in early childhood education helps create a better-educated workforce. It would also help more parents remain in the labor market, rather than scaling back or leaving their job to become full-time parents.
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