Metro Atlanta is home to a talented workforce fueling innovations across industries, and quality child care is a necessary component to maintaining high performance. A new report has revealed the child care challenges experienced by parents in the region and leading to an annual $1.75 billion loss economic activity for Georgia. The report joins a growing body of evidence underscoring the value of early childhood education for both children and their parents.
Opportunities Lost: How Child Care Challenges Affect Georgia’s Workforce and Economy is a report written in partnership by the Metro Atlanta Chamber and GEEARS: Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students. The report was authored by GEEARS Director of Research and Policy Hanah Goldberg, MAC Education Policy Director Tim Cairl and MAC Senior Vice President and Chief Economist Tom Cunningham.
GEEARS and the Metro Atlanta Chamber examined the child care issues faced by parents and their impact in Georgia. In mid-2018, the organizations surveyed parents of children under five years of age across Georgia with a dual focus on their participation in the workforce and their child care challenges.
“We really are building into a, now, national body of emerging research that began with Louisiana and Maryland in earlier reports,” Goldberg said. “Looking at the impact that those states found, we wanted to better understand how child care issues are affecting Georgia.”
The survey defined a range of child care issues – whether they are a result of systemic barriers to access or the impact of inconsistent or unreliable care. No matter the form, these challenges lead to short- (missed days at work or school) and long-term disruptions (leaving the workforce) for families, employers and the state economy.
The chief finding of the survey revealed that child care challenges lead to at least $1.75 billion in losses in economic activity annually and an additional $105 million in lost tax revenue. The economic activity loss is measured in two areas – absences of the parent from work and turnover, representing $331.1 million and $1,422,100,000, respectively. One in four Georgia parents of children under 5 reported a significant disruption to their or a family member’s employment in the past year.
Cunningham reflected on the end result of economic activity loss.
“These numbers are low explicitly to be conservative. However, the loss of $105 million in tax revenue remains striking,” Cunningham said.
Incidence of a significant job change is impacted by gender. For women, 31.9 percent of those surveyed experienced a significant job change due to problems with child care versus 18.2 percent of surveyed men. This disparity is also reflected in terms of income. Job changes due to child care were experienced by 35.5 percent of surveyed parents with income under $50,000 per year, compared with 18.1 percent of parents with more than $50,000 in income.
Opportunities Lost also found that while parents across Georgia experience child care challenges, there is some variance in other areas of the state.
“There is one geographic group that stood out,” Cairl said. “If you are a parent of a young child in South Georgia, you are significantly more impacted by issues with child care than your counterparts in other regions.”
Residents of South Georgia were much more likely to experience quitting, being fired, going from full-time to part-time, and turning down a promotion.
The Educated Workforce session debuting the report also featured a panel discussion with Stuart Andreason, director of the Center for Workforce and Economic Opportunity for the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta; Brett Copeland, assistant director of the Child Development Centers for Central Georgia Technical College; and Brittany Marks, parent and Boost Program graduate.
“Having quality child care is essential. I want to know my child is on track with their development,” Marks said. “We put a lot on hold because our children are the most important things in our lives.”
Copeland added his thoughts on parents who are working and going to school and the large challenges facing these students.
“Without a plan for their child to be safe and cared for while [parents] are in class – including how to pay for it – the dream of going back to school is as unimaginable as it is unattainable,” Copeland added.
The panel, moderated by Stephanie Blank, board chair for GEEARS, spoke on implications for the report, including the need to serve as a status report on child care in Georgia. Before Opportunities Lost, parents and organizations had no means to understand the true impact of these issues to the larger economy.
“[This report] helps centralize our conversation in Georgia. It’s an affordability issue disproportionally felt by women,” Andreason said.
Blank shared another component – the perceived taboo of discussing child care options with employers.
“Employees were scared to talk about child care. I think a lot of employers are working in ignorance of these needs,” Blank said.
Mindy Binderman, executive director with GEEARS, closed out the meeting.
“This is a clarion call for change,” Binderman said. “We could increase our Georgia budget by about $2 billion [by working to resolve issues of child care.]”