Crisis of Care: How Commodification of Childcare Creates and Exacerbates Inequality in Erie County and New York State—and What to Do About It
This special triple issue of High Road Policy uses Erie County, New York as a study area in which to explore different dimensions of inequality that are found within, transcend, and are exacerbated by the area’s childcare system. Secondary social and economic data are analyzed and brought into conversation with primary data collected from a survey of local childcare providers to uncover challenges in the industry. Special attention is paid to connections between low wages for care work, lack of capital resources for care providers, and insufficient public investments to fill revenue gaps for providers who care for children from low-income families. Along those lines, the special issue quantifies (a) undersupply of childcare in the study area, (b) the differences between observed childcare worker wages and local costs of living, and (c) gaps between true costs of care and the public subsidies that aim to cover childcare expenses for low-income families. Synthesizing findings from those exercises paints a partial picture of harms created by and within the existing, commodified childcare system. That picture acts as a springboard from which to launch into a discussion of what a fairer, more equitable and inclusive childcare system might look like in Erie County and New York State, and how participants in that system might begin building it. One concrete opportunity toward that end is arguably to broaden the existing proposal for a New York Health Act, which has considerable support, into a more comprehensive New York Care Act. At bottom, this special triple issue finds that the American childcare system is not broken. It is working as any system of market allocation is intended to operate – by ensuring that families with the greatest willingness and ability to pay for the commodity of childcare receive it, while leaving scores of working families behind. Consequently, the system does not need to be reformed. It needs to be meaningfully transformed. This issue offers realistic possibilities for beginning that process of system transformation in New York State in the here and now.
ILR Buffalo Co-Lab
Erie; child care; inequality
alternative text; bookmarks; highContractDisplay; reading order; structural navigation