(Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images; Taylor Le/Pacific Standard)
The conversation at the presidential debate has kicked off with childcare — one area where both candidates actually have fully fleshed policy agendas. Hillary Clinton’s plan relies on a combination of tax credits and government investments in childcare programs and would cap childcare spending at 10 percent of a family’s income, whereas Donald Trump’s plan relies exclusively on tax deductions and credits to make childcare more affordable.
Childcare is currently undergoing an affordability and a quality crisis. Only South Dakota and Wyoming have childcare that costs 10 percent or less of a family’s income, according to a report from the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank.
Back in the 1990s, a team of researchers tracked second-graders who had attended center-based childcare in their early years. In a report summarizing the study, the researchers found that “[c]hildren who attended higher quality child care centers performed better on measures of both cognitive skills (e.g., math and language abilities) and social skills (e.g., interactions with peers, problem behaviors) in child care and through the transition into school.”
With that in mind, here are a few facts underscoring the differences between Trump’s and Clinton’s plans:
- Clinton’s plan is targeted primarily at lower- and middle-income earners; analysts say that under Trump’s plan, wealthier Americans would see the biggest gains.
- Clinton’s plan calls for increased funding for public childcare centers, as well as childcare tax credits for low- and middle-income families, and caps childcare spending at 10 percent of a family’s income. Clinton’s plan also includes a number of proposals aimed at increasing the pay and credentials of childcare providers.
- Trump, by contrast, has proposed making childcare costs tax-deductible for those making up to $250,000 (for individuals) or $500,000 (for couples filing jointly). Trump’s plan also calls for an expanded childcare tax credit for low-income families through the Earned Income Tax Credit (up to $1,200). Neither candidate has released detailed plans for how they intend to pay for their proposals.
- When it comes to maternity leave, Trump proposes a required six-week maternity leave for working mothers. Payments to those women would be issued through the unemployment insurance system. Clinton’s plan — which would cover both fathers and mothers — requires up to 12 weeks of leave, with guarantees of at least two-thirds of the employee’s regular salary — payment of which would be accounted for through higher taxes on the wealthy.
The United States spends far less on childcare than many foreign governments. Both candidates are proposing big changes in that department.