In a recent episode of the New York Times podcast “The Daily,” an important reality about child care permeated the discussion: that for many families, access to quality child care requires significant financial resources. This is certainly the case in Minnesota, where the average cost of child care is more than $1,000 per month.
When looking deeper, we see how a lack of access to early childhood care and education is experienced across different communities – and how structural racism impacts access and quality.
Cost limits access
Structural racism impacts a family’s ability to access a quality early childhood care and education program. We see this through the average cost of care, coupled with racial and ethnic earnings disparities, which are larger in Minnesota than in the U.S. as a whole. (For instance, Black, Indigenous, Latine and Hmong workers in Minnesota have median annual earnings ranging from $27,900 to $35,000, while white workers have median earnings of $47,900.) These income disparities mean that Black, Indigenous and other parents of color have an even more difficult time affording child care than white parents.
Role of program funding
While Minnesota has state- and locally funded programs that help with the cost of child care, many eligible families are unable to access them due to insufficient funding. Among the children eligible based on their family’s income, 83% are not receiving early learning scholarships, 52% are not enrolled in Head Start and 94% are not enrolled in Early Head Start. The problem here is not lack of parental interest, but rather lack of funding.
Structure and schedule of licensed child care programs
The majority of licensed child care programs tend to be open from early morning to early evening. These hours of operation are a good fit for parents who work during that time frame (usually considered more white-collar, first-shift working hours), but that structure makes it next to impossible for parents to find care if they work jobs that have erratic or unpredictable hours. This varied schedule is a reality for parents who work low-wage jobs – jobs that are also unlikely to include employment benefits like paid time off. And Black, Indigenous, Latine, Asian Pacific Islander and other parents of color are more likely to be in low-wage jobs compared to white parents.
Source: Sahan Journal