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The reality is that child care in America is expensive and out of reach for many families. Whether center-based or family child care, the average cost of child care nationally exceeds US$8,600 per year.
By comparison, that is more than double the estimated average net tuition and fee price of $4,140 paid by full-time in-state students at public four-year institutions in the 2017-18 academic year.

事实上,美国的儿童保育费用昂贵,许多家庭无法负担。无论是护理中心还是家庭儿童保育,全国儿童保育的平均成本每年都超过8600美元。
相比之下,这一数字是2017-18学年公立四年制大学全日制在校生平均学费(4140美元)的两倍多。

There are other good reasons why child care affordability should get just as much attention as college affordability, if not more.
For starters, families typically use child care for five years per child – a year longer than earning a bachelor’s degree is supposed to take.

还有其他充分的理由说明(如果不是更多的话),儿童保育负担能力应该和大学负担能力一样受到重视。
首先,家庭通常为每个孩子提供五年的保育服务,比获得学士学位所需的时间长一年。

A matter of timing
Further, child care lacks the financing options, such as loans and grants, that many middle-class families use for college costs – and this despite the fact that parents don’t have years to save for child care like they do for college. Additionally, child care costs are typically highest during families’ lowest earning years.

时间问题
此外,儿童保育缺乏许多中产阶级家庭用于大学费用的融资选择,如贷款和助学金——尽管事实上,父母没有像上大学那样为儿童保育储蓄多年。此外,在家庭收入最低的年份,儿童保育费用通常最高。

For low-income families, public early care and education programs provide limited benefits, but the system is underfunded. For example, only 40 percent of 4-year-olds from poor families attend Head Start. In 2012, only 25 percent of eligible children received child care subsidies. In 2016, 20 states had waiting lists or frozen intake for child care assistance, and many low-income families remain confused about eligibility requirements and the application process.

对于低收入家庭,公共早期护理和教育项目提供的福利有限,该系统资金不足。例如,来自贫困家庭的4岁儿童中只有40%参加“早期教育计划”。2012年,只有25%的符合条件的儿童获得了儿童保育补贴。2016年,有20个州的儿童保育援助申请被列入候补名单或被冻结,许多低收入家庭仍然对申请资格和申请流程感到困惑。

The federal child and dependent care tax credit – which allows parents to deduct eligible child care costs from their taxes – is capped at $3,000 for one child and $6,000 for two or more children, and is not refundable, meaning it does not benefit the lowest-income families that don’t earn enough to owe taxes. In 2015, the average credit was $565 – a drop in the bucket compared to child care expenses.
What results is that families with children aged 5 years or younger spend an average of 10 percent of their income on child care. Families that live in poverty spend 30 percent of their income on child care.

联邦儿童和抚养人税收抵免——允许父母从税收中扣除符合条件的儿童护理费用——最高限额为一个孩子3000美元,两个或更多孩子6000美元,不能退还,这意味着它不能惠及收入不足以缴纳税款的最低收入家庭。2015年,平均信贷为565美元——与儿童保育费用相比,这只是杯水车薪。结果是,有5岁或5岁以下儿童的家庭平均将其收入的10%用于儿童保育。生活在贫困中的家庭将其收入的30%用于儿童保育。

Over the last decade, several states and cities like New York City, the District of Columbia and San Antonio have created public preschool programs that serve children from low- and higher-income families. Georgia and Oklahoma were the pioneers on this front, beginning their universal prekindergarten programs in the 1990s. Also in recent years, five states and the District of Columbia passed laws to create paid family leave programs. Both universal preschool and paid family leave programs are important for promoting children’s development. But what warrants much greater investment and policy attention is the gap between age 8 weeks – when parental leave ends – and ages 3 or 4, when preschool begins.

在过去的十年里,一些州和城市,如纽约市、哥伦比亚特区和圣安东尼奥市,已经建立了面向低收入和高收入家庭儿童的公立学前教育项目。乔治亚州和俄克拉何马州是这方面的先驱者,在20世纪90年代开始了他们的全民学前教育项目。同样在最近几年,5个州和哥伦比亚特区通过了法律,设立了带薪家庭休假项目。普及学前教育和带薪探亲假项目对促进儿童发展都具有重要意义。但值得更多投资和政策关注的是,8周(育儿假结束时)和3、4岁(学前教育开始时)之间的差距。



Decades of research show the many benefits of high-quality early care and education. Right now, unequal access to high-quality child care is exacerbating social and economic inequality. Speaking as a researcher in the field of child care for more than a decade, I believe that access to high-quality early learning opportunities needs to be expanded to narrow achievement gaps.

数十年的研究表明,高质量的早期保育和教育有许多好处。目前,获得高质量儿童保育的不平等正在加剧社会和经济不平等。作为一名在儿童保育领域工作了十多年的研究人员,我认为需要扩大获得高质量早期学习机会的途径,以缩小成就差距。

Labor costs and salaries
So how is it that it costs more to drop your baby or toddler off at day care than it does for your young adult child to attend college?It’s not that child care teachers are paid generously. The median hourly wage for child care workers was only $10.18 in 2016 – less than the median hourly wage of $10.45 for parking lot attendants. Many earn salaries so low they are eligible for or receive public assistance.

劳动力成本和工资
那么,送孩子去日托所花的钱怎么比送孩子上大学还多呢? 这并不是说幼儿教师的工资报酬很慷慨。2016年,儿童保育工作者的时薪中值仅为10.18美元,低于停车场服务员的时薪中值10.45美元。许多人的工资太低,以至于他们有资格获得或接受公共援助。

But it is still the cost of teachers that makes child care cost more than college. The majority of child care expenses cover labor costs. That’s because child care teachers – for numerous health, safety and developmental reasons – are only permitted to be responsible for small groups of children. The allowable child-to-teacher ratios vary from state to state. For example, Early Head Start programs require ratios of four infants to one caregiver and cap class sizes at eight children.

但是,仍然是教师的成本使儿童保育成本高于大学。大部分儿童保育费用包括劳动力成本。这是因为儿童保育教师——出于许多健康、安全和发展方面的原因——只允许对小群体的儿童负责。允许的师生比因州而异。例如,早期的学前教育计划要求四名婴儿与一名护理人员的比例,并将规模上限设定为八名儿童。

Simply put, many ordinary business principles – such as increased productivity among workers or economies of scale – simply do not apply in the world of child care.

简而言之,许多普通的商业原则——例如工人生产率的提高或规模经济——根本不适用于儿童保育领域。

Greater investments needed
So what can be done to both improve the quality and increase the affordability of child care? My co-authored book, “Cradle to Kindergarten: A New Plan to Combat Inequality,” provides a comprehensive plan for doing so. The book recommends a mix of paid parental leave, enhanced child care subsidies, universal preschool and a reimagined Head Start to begin at or before birth.

需要更大的投资
那么,怎样才能既提高儿童保育的质量,又提高其负担能力呢?我的合著书《从摇篮到幼儿园:一个消除不平等的新计划》提供了一个全面的计划。这本书推荐了带薪育儿假、加强儿童保育补助、普及学前教育和在出生时或出生前就开始早期教育。

At a minimum, I believe there should be greater investment in the early years, particularly in expanding the child care subsidy system to serve more children and families and to pay child care providers amounts that reflect the price of high-quality care. The additional $2.9 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant program included in the recent budget deal is a great first step, and could serve an estimated 230,000 additional children in 2018.

至少,我认为应该在早期加大投资,特别是扩大儿童保育补贴制度,为更多的儿童和家庭提供服务,并向儿童保育提供者支付反映高质量护理价格的金额。最近的预算协议中增加了29亿美元用于儿童保育和发展计划,这是一个伟大事业的第一步,预计2018年将为新增23万名儿童提供服务。

States should use these funds to support child care for infants and toddlers, the group for whom care is most expensive and hardest to find. States could also use funds to help train and retain high-quality teachers, including providing compensation that matches their educational qualifications.

各州应该用这些资金来支持婴幼儿保育,因为对婴幼儿而言,保育费用最高,也最难找到。各州还可以利用资金帮助培训和留住高质量教师,包括提供与其教育资格相匹配的薪酬。

But this is just a down payment in what needs to be a sustained, substantial effort. Parents and their employers lose out when kids attend low-quality, unreliable child care. When child care breaks down, parents can’t work. A recent report from Louisiana estimates that the state’s economy loses $1.1 billion a year due to child care issues.

但这只是一笔预付款,需要持续、大量的努力。当孩子接受低质量、不可靠的托儿服务时,父母和雇主就会蒙受损失。当儿童保育系统崩溃时,父母就不能工作了。路易斯安那州最近的一份报告估计,由于儿童保育问题,该州经济每年损失11亿美元。



As elected officials debate potential investments in infrastructure, child care should be seen as an essential part of the equation. Just like transportation, workers need child care to get to work. Employers and the public have vested interests in ensuring that the workers and taxpayers of tomorrow receive high-quality early care and education today.

当民选官员讨论基础设施方面的潜在投资时,儿童保育应被视为平衡中不可或缺的一部分。就像交通一样,工人们需要儿童保育才能上班。确保未来的工人和纳税人今天得到高质量的早期保育和教育,这符合雇主和公众的既得利益。