Parents could earn $48 billion more if Congress helped with childcare so they could go back to work

Parents could earn $48 billion more if Congress helped with childcare so they could go back to work
Affordable childcare could pump billions into the economy.Halfpoint Images/Getty
  • Affordable child and universal pre-K would put billions back into parents' pockets, per a new report.
  • Left-leaning think tank The Century Foundation dives into the potential impact of those policies.

Passing affordable childcare and universal pre-K could be a big boon for the economy and parents' wallets — if Democrats were ever able to pass it.

That's according to a new study from left-leaning think tank The Century Foundation, which looks at the potential impact of Democrats' proposed legislation.

The Build Back Better Act would enact universal pre-K for three and four-year-olds in America, and pour billions into slashing the costs of childcare.

According to the report, three million more parents would either enter the labor force or boost their work hours. The parents heading back or upping their hours would be mostly mothers, who have been particularly hard hit by pandemic-era labor constraints.

Those parents returning would lead to a boom in economic output for parental work — parents' output would go up by $48 billion yearly, according to the report.


Childcare — or lack thereof — has emerged as a major issue in the labor market and labor shortages. Parents, especially mothers, dropped out of the labor force when the pandemic suddenly destabilized their access to childcare.

Even as the the economic recovery booms along, women have been left behind. The labor force participation rate for women — which tracks those actively working or looking for work — has remained lower than their male peers, and dropped in February 2022. As of that month, there were still 1.1 million fewer women in the labor force than in February 2020, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unemployment for Black women has remained particularly elevated, exacerbating economic and racial inequities.

At the same time, employers continue to bemoan that they just can't find anyone to work, with labor shortages still cropping up across the economy.

"Women are not able to answer the 'help wanted' ad if they don't have steady, affordable childcare, because they know they can't be reliable, productive employees," Gina Raimondo, the US Secretary of Commerce, previously told Insider. "So they're not applying for these jobs."

Economic gains wouldn't just be for parents

The report finds that the economy would see a $30 billion boost as the childcare sector expands. Childcare itself has been consistently understaffed and grappling with its own labor shortages; childcare workers previously told Insider that while they love their roles, low pay and high turnover makes it difficult to stay. Part of the funding for childcare in Build Back Better would raise wages.


And, affordable and accessible childcare would pare down on business disruptions, according to the report — amounting to a $60 billion gain for businesses and state taxes.

However, Build Back Better is still stalled after key centrist Democrat Joe Manchin proclaimed it "dead." However, Democrats and the White House have reportedly been trying to rework the package to win over the adamantly anti-inflation senator from West Virginia. Manchin has indicated that universal pre-K is one thing that could get his stamp of approval.