A Second Look at Childcare Expenses and the Decline of Working Women

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A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a paper which claimed that declining female labor force participation was a result of increasing childcare costs. I was skeptical because the paper clearly showed that participation rates for women with children declined less than rates for women without children.

Today, Chris Herbst of Arizona State University emails to say my skepticism is justified. The problem, he says, is that well-off families increasingly spend a lot for premium childcare, and this boosts the average. If, instead, you look at medians, childcare expenditures haven’t really gone up that much. Instead of rising 32 percent between 1990 and 2011, the median increase is only 16 percent. What’s more, virtually all of that increase happened during the 90s. Since childcare is labor intensive, he uses the earnings of childcare workers as a proxy for the cost of childcare. Here’s what that looks like:

Long story short, if the cost of childcare hasn’t gone up much for working-class and middle-class families, then it probably has little effect on the labor force participation rate of women. The full paper is here, and it has some other interesting tidbits. For example, Herbst finds that the modest increase in childcare expenditures masks a big split: expenditures have gone up a lot for children under five, but have actually gone down a bit for older children. Perhaps there’s some further work to do comparing the labor force participation of women with toddlers vs. women with school-age children?

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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