July 13, 2023

Florida Children, Parents, and the Economy Do Better When Policymakers Invest in Quality Child Care and Early Learning Experiences

The Annie E. Casey Foundation just released its 2023 KIDS COUNT® Data Book comparing the fifty states in four areas of child well-being.  Overall, Florida ranks 31st out of 50 in child well-being.  However, Florida’s lack of affordable and accessible child care short-changes children and causes parents to frequently miss work or even quit their jobs, while those who can find care are paying dearly for it. These child care challenges cost the American economy billions of dollars.

Read more about Florida's Data Book ranking here.

Florida continues to make strides to address affordability and accessibility of child care, but more is needed. Florida was among the first to implement universal pre-K for 4-year-olds and has continued to make strides to make child care more affordable, including expanding eligibility for the state’s School Readiness program.  However, the Data Book reports that too many parents cannot secure child care that is compatible with work schedules and commutes. The Data Book reports that in 2020-21, 13 percent of children birth to age 5 in Florida lived in families in which someone quit, changed, or refused a job because of problems with child care, the same as the national average. Women are disproportionately affected and are 5 to 8 times more likely than men to experience negative employment consequences related to caregiving.

Even when child care is accessible geographically and responsive to parents’ schedules, it often is not affordable. Even if parents can find an opening at a child care home or center near their home, they often can’t pay for it. Florida’s average cost of center-based child care for a toddler in 2021 was $8,678, which is 9 percent of median income of a married couple and 26 percent of a single mother’s median income in the state.

Child care workers are among the lowest paid professionals. The availability of quality child care is stymied by labor shortages in the industry and lower wages relative to other sectors. While the cost of care burdens families, child care workers are paid worse than 98 percent of professions. The median national pay for child care workers was $28,520 per year (or $13.71 an hour in 2022) less than the wage for retail ($14.26) and customer service ($18.16) workers.

Child care is essential to healthy children and to a healthy economy. Ensuring an adequate supply of qualified early childhood educators affects the current and future health of the American economy. Lack of affordable and accessible child care costs the economy $122 billion a year in lost earnings, productivity, and tax revenue, according to one study. In Florida, these losses are estimated at $6.6 billion, which comes to 5 percent of the nation’s lost earnings, productivity, and revenue.

Florida’s failure to build an adequate child care infrastructure puts parents under tremendous stress. The dual responsibilities of providing for their families and ensuring their children are safe and nurtured force many parents out of the workforce. Transforming a faltering child care system into a flourishing one will take new action and investing at the local, state, and national levels. A federal executive order in April is aimed at expanding access, lowering costs, and raising wages. It could prove to be a helpful framework, but more is needed:

  • Federal, state, and local governments should invest more money in child care. State and local governments should maximize remaining pandemic recovery act dollars to fund needed child care services and build capacity. Congress should reauthorize and strengthen the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act and increase funding for public pre-K and Head Start.
  • Public and private leaders should work together to improve the infrastructure for home-based child care, beginning by lowering the barriers to entry for potential providers by increasing access to start-up and expansion capital.
  • To help young parents, Congress should expand the federal Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) program, which serves student parents.

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