Who benefits from child care? Moms and boys (and society)

Okay, daughters, too, but one of the interesting findings of research into this area is that boys benefit more than girls.  Lots of interesting stuff in this Upshot piece from Claire Cain Miller:

Helping parents pay for that care would be expensive for society, too. Yet recent studies show that of any policy aimed to help struggling families, aid for high-quality care has the biggest economic payoff for parents and their children — and even their grandchildren. It has the biggest positive effect on women’s employment and pay. It’s especially helpful for low-income families, because it can propel generations of children toward increased earnings, better jobs, improved health, more education and decreased criminal activity as adults. [emphasis mine]

Damn.  That’s an impressive list.  What a tremendous potential investment for government to make.  Alas, we wouldn’t want to take women away from their “essential” role or fail to ignore the fact that lots of women need to work for simple economic reasons.

For a country that struggles far too much with inter-generational mobility, the latest research should provide plenty of incentive:

A powerful new study — which demonstrated long-term results by following children from birth until age 35 — found that high-quality care during the earliest years can influence whether both mothers and children born into disadvantage lead more successful lives. The study was led by James J. Heckman, a Nobel laureate economist at the University of Chicago.

“They’re engaged more in the work force, they’re now active participants of society, they’re more educated, they have higher skills,” Mr. Heckman said. “So what we’ve done is promoted mobility across generations.”

And, it really is amazing how profound the impact is on males:

When the boys reached age 30, they earned an average of $19,800 more a year than those in the control group and had half a year more education. (The small sample size — 37 boys in the programs who stayed in the study — means the difference was not very precisely estimated.) When the girls reached 30, they had two more years of education and earned about $2,500 more, the study found.

In their mid-30s, men who attended the program were 33 percent less likely to be drug users, had fewer misdemeanor arrests and were less likely to have high blood pressure.

The conclusion that boys benefited more than girls meshes with other research findings that boys are more sensitive to disadvantage and responsive to intervention.

And dollars and cents– a hell of an investment:

The program was expensive — $18,514 per student a year — but after calculating effects like the cost to society of unemployment, crime and poor health, the researchers concluded that it returned $7.30 for every dollar spent. In addition to Mr. Heckman, the researchers were Jorge Luis García of the University of Chicago and Duncan Ermini Leaf and María José Prados of the University of Southern California.

The article mentions Ivanka Trump championing programs like this.  Encouraging, I guess.  But talk to me when Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell realize this is a far better use of taxpayer dollars than tax cuts for rich people.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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