Does Quebec's $5 per day child care plan provide a convincing strategy that expands the quality and quantity of child care in Connecticut?
Most US residents have never heard about Quebec’s investment in Childcare, which for the average family means access to affordable quality child-care services. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that a family’s childcare expenditure should not exceed 7% of their annual income, but in Connecticut, that goal is almost impossible to achieve quality childcare at affordable rates (Solá, 2023). Our data story focuses on what Connecticut can learn from other governments' efforts with respect to Child Care Programs. The questions posed are important to our community partners at Middlesex Coalition for Children and CT Early Childhood Alliances as they sought strategies involving the improvement of the quality and quantity of childcare. Childcare is a vital part of child development, and when there is a lack of affordability and availability it can negatively impact the labor force and child development while increasing poverty. Difficulty in finding childcare can be a burden for parents and caregivers as they miss out on income opportunities, especially those belonging to low-income families.
We will cover strategies that Canada has used to increase the quantity and quality of child care, and whether it increased workforce participation enough to generate tax revenue that offset costs. Through our analysis, we hope to communicate the details of Quebec’s subsidy program, discuss the differences in affordability and availability of childcare across regions, and formulate lessons of change that can be adapted by the U.S.
We believe that evaluating the relative success of the Quebec program requires us to look closely at workforce participation. Our goal is to unravel the connection between access to child care, workforce participation, and the resulting economic consequences. By delving into Quebec's approaches we aim to determine if increased workforce participation generates tax revenue to balance out the expenses. Specifically, we will be looking at not just the increased participation of parents when there is more accessibility to childcare, but specifically the increased participation of women and men in the workforce. Due to a variety of different stereotypes and factors, women have experienced a variety of troubles when it comes to workforce participation after becoming a parent. For example, when it comes to childcare, women are automatically assumed to inherit the role of being a stay-at-home mother. Eventually, because of economic conditions, the cost of childcare, and the availability of childcare, women tend to end up pausing their careers and ambitions to take care of their families. Fathers face the issue of an over-saturated work schedule due to the high prices of childcare and cost of living.
We are looking at Quebec's childcare subsidy program as a model for future improvements to the childcare costs that parents experience. A reduced universal price in public childcare improves both affordability and availability.
In the process of collecting data, reading articles, and reports on the impact of the subsidy program in Quebec, we found that it resulted in the improvement of affordability drastically. In comparison to Quebec, childcare in Connecticut is 5 times more expensive. While the lowest daily cost for childcare in Connecticut (Infant/toddler) is $50 dollars, Quebec was able to reduce their daily cost to just $5 significantly.
Quebec’s Child Care Program was introduced in 1997 and is Canada’s first universal and publicly funded childcare program. First introduced and funded by the Centres de la Petite Enfance (CPE), this multifaceted policy solution successfully addresses the pressing issues faced by parents and caregivers who have difficulty in finding affordable child care. In Figure 1, the chart shows the cost per day for childcare in Connecticut compared to Quebec. Costs and amounts have been adjusted for inflation.
Figure 1: This interactive chart shows the different childcare costs in two regions; costs adjusted for inflation
One of the main issues that we are experiencing with the high cost of childcare is declining labor participation among parents, especially women. Due to the high costs associated with child care in the United States, it takes at least a dual-income household to afford childcare. This results in at least one parent needing to become a stay-at-home parent, usually a mother, in order to offset the cost of childcare. However, we can observe a significant increase in women working in Quebec after the subsidy program was implemented.
Figure 2: This interactive chart shows the change in Quebec's female workforce participation over the years 2000-2022
Figure 3: This interactive chartshows the change in female workforce participation in Connecticut between 2010-2022
The economic benefits of this program are visible; as mentioned in the Tamarack Community article, the income rate for women increased by 40% and there were at least an additional 70,000 women in the workforce (Homer, 2021). This accounts for a large portion of a nation's GDP, and in this case, these women brought in an additional $5.1 billion between 1997 and 2008 which boosted Quebec’s GDP by 1.7%. In addition, figure 2 shows the positive effects of Quebec’s child care system on women’s workforce participation. The participation rate in the fall of 1997, when the program was implemented, is 56.1%. After the first 10 years, we can see a significant increase in participation, rising to 61.3%. To understand the degree of impact, this is nearly a 10% improvement in female workforce participation.
These findings are crucial in showcasing the impacts of the subsidy program that essentially grants affordable child care to any parent in Quebec. The increase in childcare availability leads to an increase in workforce participation from the latter half of the population, women. According to a study done by Pierre Fontin from the University of Montreal, the success of the program not only boosts the economy, but also offsets costs for the program. Quebec taxpayers earn back about $1.49 for every $1 spent on the program and every $1 the Quebec government spends earns $1.05 ((Urban, 2011). In simpler terms, when individual taxpayers in Quebec contribute $1 to the child care program, they get back $1.49 in benefits due to the increased economic activity. On a larger scale, for every $1 Quebec’s government spends on the child care program, they earn $1.05 in return, due to the program’s positive impact on employment. Statistics like these showcasing the immense benefits of the program support the idea of moving Connecticut towards implementing a subsidy program that lowers the daily cost of childcare, which could potentially also boost Connecticut's economy the same way it has for Quebec.
To prepare this data story, a lot of our findings depended on policy reports and data-rich news articles. We began by researching Quebec’s childcare program to gain a deeper understanding of the framework of this policy solution. Once we had a comprehensive foundation, we proceeded to compare Quebec’s childcare cost and availability to Connecticut’s to create a meaningful narrative. To retrieve data about Quebec’s child care availability and affordability, we used data-rich articles from Statistics Canada, Child Care Canada, and the Tamarack Community. Accessing the same data for Connecticut was tricker, but we used reports available on the 211 Child Care website to retrieve relevant data. The average daily cost for each child care service type in Connecticut was calculated by dividing the average weekly cost provided for each type by the assumed workweek of 5 days. Then, we calculated the overall average daily cost by averaging the calculated values across all service types. To provide a better understanding of these numbers, we created a column chart on Datawrapper.
To make all this research meaningful, we had to analyze its benefits. To do so, we chose to focus on the program’s effect on women’s workforce participation. We retrieved this data from Statistics Canada and created a line chart that shows change over a period of time. Similar to the rest of this project, we collected values for three data points: 2000, 2010, and 2020. This provided a visual that shows the participation rate gap between men and women grows smaller as the years pass. Lastly, we compiled this data to create a narrative showing lessons of change.
During our process, we faced challenges in retrieving data relevant to Connecticut’s labor force participation. So far, we have been unable to find gender-specific data on the changes in labor force participation. In the next step of our data story, we hope to retrieve this data with the assistance of our professor. Lastly, the pandemic in 2020 adds uncertainty to the interpretation of the data as the “final” values we present for 2020 can be affected by externalities. For example, for Quebec’s labor force participation, we noticed that the rates increased from 2000-2010, but decreased slightly between 2010-2020. To provide a more comprehensive visual, we added data from 2023.
In the process of data collection, we ran into the issue of collection for Connecticut's labor participation, more specifically for women in the workplace. We asked for assistance from our professor, Jack Dougherty, and our community partners, Finnoula Darby Hudgens to look for Connecticut-specific data for women's participation in the workforce. The only data readily available was from the American Community Survey dating only back to 2010. In comparison, Quebec was able to provide data from 1997 to the present for women's participation in the workforce. This is an important piece of data that is lacking. Although there is some data available to show how many women were working in Connecticut, it only goes back about 14 years. In the context of Quebec's childcare subsidy, there is a 13-year gap. Without this kind of data, there is not enough advocacy and attention given at a governmental level as well. This also reflects the priorities and values of the state of Connecticut and its concern for women in the workforce.
This phenomenon can be explained by looking at Data Feminism by Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren Klein. In the textbook, Sociologist Patricia Hill Collin explains the concept of the matrix of domination to explain the interaction between the minority and dominant groups, and how the minority group experiences power. (D’Ignazio & Klein, 2020) In this case, we are looking at a minority population, women in the United States. The issue comes when data is not available to show what it looks like for women in the workforce, therefore, it is more difficult to allow subsidy programs like Quebec’s, to be established. The minority group, women, are oppressed by the dominant group, government and data science, by neglecting to collect data on women in the workforce.
When we analyze what is missing in our data story through the eyes of data feminism, we can observe our society's values and the gaps that exist in data science. As a society, we do not value mothers as a part of the labor force after having their children. Along with that, the lack of data tells us about the little representation of working mothers in data science. Collecting more data in Connecticut about working mothers and fathers would be a good starting point and begin implementing a statewide subsidy program.
Annual Child Care Capacity, Availability and Enrollment Survey 2020 – 211 Child Care. (n.d.). Click Here.
D’Ignazio, C., & Klein, L. (2020). Data Feminism. The MIT Press. Click Here
Government of Canada, Statistics Canada. (2023, December 1). Labour force characteristics by province, monthly, seasonally adjusted. Click Here
Homer, A. (2021, June 4). Quebec’s universal access to low-fee child care: Les centres de la petite enfance. Tamarack Institute. Click Here
Kroen, G. C. (2023, July 24). Quebec offers public childcare for $6 a day. why can’t the U.S.? rethinking childcare. cleveland. Click Here
Solá, A. T. (2023, August 7). Majority of parents spend 20% or more of household income on child care, report finds. CNBC.Click Here
Urban, A. (2011, June 23). Quebec’s subsidized child care pays for itself. Child Care Canada. Click Here