Access to Affordable, High-quality Childcare a "National Economic Priority," but Still a Challenge for Many Families

In his recent State of the Union address, President Obama once again highlighted the importance of high-quality, affordable childcare. In his remarks, the President framed early childcare as an important economic issue: “It’s time we stop treating childcare as a side issue, or a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us.”

Because of this, the President proposed greater funding for subsidies that would help more families afford the ever-rising costs of childcare. In Memphis, we know that access to high-quality childcare is a challenge for many families, and affordability is undoubtedly a key barrier.

Indeed, early care is important: Working families who have access to early care have greater earning potential. However, high-quality early care is also important for those children’s future earnings. Studies show that children who have access to high-quality preschool earn more as adults, face fewer social challenges such as criminality, and are less dependent on government assistance.

This is not the first time that the president has emphasized the importance of high-quality early care and education. In previous addresses, the president has called upon Congress to support universal pre-kindergarten. Nationally, voters support greater federal investment in early childhood education, regardless of political affiliation.

The intergenerational benefits are clear: access to early care and education doesn’t only help parents earn more, but helps children earn more when they grow up as well. Considering the short- and long-term economic evidence, categorizing access to high-quality early care and education as a national economic priority is almost an understatement.