Universal Childcare

America is facing a childcare crisis. 


American moms are on the brink.

American children are bearing the brunt.

The American childcare system is an interwoven crisis for parents, childcare workers, and children themselves. And it didn’t start with the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s been a crisis for decades.


More than half of American parents are making career decisions based solely on the staggering cost of childcare. For the first time since the 1970s, the percentage of women choosing to stay home after giving birth is increasing, because childcare is unaffordable, and in many cases, inaccessible. The United States is simply not investing enough in the wellness of its children and families; it ranks near the bottom of advanced nations in both maternal and child poverty and in child wellness.

It’s time to fund childcare as a public good. 

By the Numbers

  • Childcare costs more than college tuition in 28 U.S. states.

  • For a single adult without children, childcare worker wages are only considered livable in 10 states.

  • 86% of primary caregivers have said problems with childcare hurt their efforts or time commitment at work.

  • The lack of childcare in America costs the United States $57 billion each year in lost earnings, productivity and revenue.

  • Single parents spend nearly 40% of their pre-tax income on childcare annually.

  • 1 in 7 American children live in poverty.

Childcare is an economic issue: If the U.S. had similar labor force participation rates to Canada or Germany, countries with labor market policies such as paid leave, workplace flexibility, and affordable childcare, we would have roughly 5.5 million more women working, and would put an additional $500 billion into the U.S. economy.

American parents spend nearly twice as much of their income on childcare as parents in other industrialized countries. In spite of the relatively high cost of quality care—often out of reach for working families—childcare centers operate on razor-thin profit margins and many pay their staff at or near minimum wage. Women, disproportionately women of color and immigrant women, make up 94% of childcare workers, and despite the high cost of childcare to parents, about 50% of childcare providers live on public assistance. Many providers can’t afford childcare for their own children. Childcare workers earn approximately $10 per hour, less than one-third of what Kindergarten teachers earn.


The United States government must significantly invest in childcare in a similar manner to how we subsidize the K-12 public education system to make it affordable for the average American household.
We need Universal Childcare - For all children.

Attempts at Universal Childcare in America: There have been two times in American history where we came close to having government-supported childcare. During World War II, an amendment to the Lanham Act established 3,000 subsidized childcare centers to enable mothers to go to work and join the war effort. A federal legislator argued, “You cannot have a contented mother working in a war factory if she is worrying about her children, and you cannot have children running wild in the streets without a bad effect on the coming generations.” Those government-subsidized childcare centers were closed after the war. In 1971, the bipartisan Comprehensive Child Development Act passed the Senate 63 to 17. This bill would have provided childcare on a sliding scale to all American children and was wildly popular; however, Nixon vetoed it.

Childcare in the United States Military: For all the pushback we see in establishing universal childcare, we already do have one high-quality Universal Childcare program in America—our military’s. The Department of Defense spends more than $1 billion a year to cover about two-thirds of the cost of childcare for our service members. In 1989, the Military Child Care Act established strict childcare standards for all military programs that greatly exceed requirements for civilian childcare. Ninety-seven percent of military childcare programs have been independently accredited, versus just 12% of civilian programs.  

What we’re doing about it

The current childcare market does not work for working mothers and families. Vote Mama Foundation is conducting a 50-state review and in-depth policy analysis into federal and state laws and regulations, regarding the quality and cost of childcare in the United States and their economic impacts on American families. Childcare is the backbone of our economy. We are working to ensure all American families have access to quality, affordable childcare.


We believe that our best bet at making Universal Childcare a reality is to elect more moms -- who understand at a visceral level what it’s like not to be able to find quality and affordable childcare -- at all levels of government across the country.