By: Education Week
A new study finds that child-care challenges for parents in Georgia cost the state $1.75 billion a year in lost economic activity.
“We think it’s a conservative estimate,” said Hanah Goldberg, the study’s lead author and the director of research and policy at GEEARS, the Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students.
The study, which was conducted by GEEARS and the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, found that Georgia lost more than $330 million due to employee absences and more than $1.4 billion due to worker turnover.
“We think the actual loss is much larger than this figure,” said Goldberg, who said things such as employee tardiness and workers who choose not to take promotions or certain jobs because of child-care challenges aren’t factored into this.
The study was based in part on similar studies conducted in Louisiana and Maryland.
Long-Term Employment Disruptions
As part of the study, earlier this year a polling firm interviewed 400 Georgia parents by phone and online about their child-care challenges.
Twenty percent of those surveyed indicated that they had quit work, school, or job training due to issues surrounding child care. Inadequate child care forced 18 percent to drop down from full-time work, school, or job training to part-time, and 5 percent were fired due to these challenges.
Short-Term Employment Disruptions
The survey also found that parents frequently were late to work or had to leave early due to child-care issues.
Fifty-seven percent indicated that they had missed work in the last six months because of problems with child care, while 60 percent missed work training during that time. Nearly 50 percent had been late to work, school or work training due to child-care challenges.
The survey found that women, single parents, those with a household income of less than $50,000 a year, and part-time workers were more likely to report employment disruptions due to problems with child care.
The study’s authors call for a two-pronged approach to solving the problem that involves public and private investment.
Goldberg cites the need for more family-friendly work policies, on-site child care, and flexible work schedules. But she also notes that child care is so expensive that it’s out of reach for many families. Parents that make less than half of the state median income and meet other requirements are eligible to apply for a child-care subsidy.
“We would love to see that expanded so that more families are able to access that critical support that allows the parents to go to work and allows the children to be in high-quality learning environments,” said Goldberg.
The Center for Law and Social Policy, or CLASP, issued a report in 2016 that found only 11 percent of income-eligible children were served by Georgia’s child-care subsidy.
Goldberg blamed a lack of funds for this problem but said the political will was there to change things.
“In this very polarized climate, we’re very fortunate that early learning enjoys broad support across political parties and across levels of government,” said Goldberg.
Both of the candidates for Georgia governor in the recent midterm election vowed to improve early learning with Democrat Stacey Abrams calling for a stop to public dollars being spent on private child care and Republican Brian Kemp vowing to protect lottery funds for the state’s pre-K program. Votes were still being counted in the race as of November 9.