Finding affordable child care can be a real challenge for many families. Everyone loves the party game “Two Truths and a Lie.” Can you identify which of the three following statements about child care is a lie?

A. Child care is a large and expensive part of the U.S. economy.

B. More government funding and regulation will make childcare less expensive, and more diverse.

C. The government has a track record of failures when it comes to child care. 

Let’s take these statements one at a time: 

A. TRUE. Paid child care plays a critical role in the United States economy. An estimated four in ten working adults have children under age 18 and, before the outbreak of coronavirus, nearly 60 percent of children under age five were in a regular, weekly childcare arrangement (as opposed to family care). As of 2016, an estimated 675,000 businesses made up the daycare sector.

Childcare costs can be very expensive: in 2019 the average annual cost of child care exceeded $9,000 per child, according to a comprehensive survey by Childcare Aware of America. Cost of care varies greatly, however, being higher for infants and toddlers, in center-based care, and in more urban settings.

B. LIE. The wrong approach to child care is allowing the government to expand its role in funding and micromanaging day care, especially given how poorly our K-12 public schools function. Biden’s Build Back Better’s childcare provisions would have made the federal government the biggest player in daycare and preschool programs, and included a raft of regulations that would make childcare centers more expensive to operate and discourage the development of innovative and diverse childcare providers and undermine faith-based childcare centers, which are currently used by 51 percent of working parents. 

C. TRUTH.Government childcare and preschool programs are sold as a surefire way to improve life outcomes for children, particularly from low income families. However, the evidence from existing government childcare and preschool programs simply doesn’t bear this out.  

Congressionally-mandated studies of Head Start—the federal government’s existing, $10-billion-per-year preschool program—have failed to show lasting benefits for participants. A recent study in Tennessee of state-run pre-K revealed it has long term negative effects on low-income childrens’ achievement and behavior.

To learn more about the right approach to child care in the U.S., check out our policy focus HERE