Your Reading List: Philanthropy’s Role in Combatting the Child Care Crisis

In the midst of a global pandemic, many of us gained a new and deeper appreciation for the importance of accessible, high-quality child care. Juggling full-time careers and full-time caretaking during lockdown was enough to bring even the most competent parents to their breaking point.

Now that we are three years into the pandemic, it’s time to act and revitalize the broken child care system so that both families and educators can thrive. With almost 80,000 child care jobs lost since February 2020 and the average cost of care now exceeding $10,000 per year, it’s no wonder the Biden administration named child care as one of its 2023 economic priorities.

Philanthropy can play a key role in revolutionizing child care and advocating for racial and gender equity in early education spaces. Investments in early child care catalyze support for young children at a critical age of social and emotional development; for women, who are disproportionately responsible for childrearing; and for early childhood educators, too many of whom are paid the bare minimum for exhausting yet essential work.

Below, discover the many ways the child care industry has been both undervalued and inaccessible to so many families, and then explore the power philanthropy has to invest in bold solutions to forge a sustainable, equitable path forward.


Understand the realities of child care in the U.S. and its impact on women and the economy

  • 51 percent of people in the United States live in a child care desert. Center for American Progress, 2018. This interactive map shows the harsh realities of child care inaccessibility and explores how these “child care deserts” affect people of different races, incomes, and regions.
  • Setting higher wages for child care workers and home health workers is long overdue. Economic Policy Institute, November 2021. This report spotlights how the vital (and demanding) work of child care is deeply undervalued and undercompensated, as well as the roles that systemic racism, sexism, ableism, and xenophobia play in attaining equitable salaries for child care providers.
  • Want to Grow the Economy? Fix the Child Care Crisis. ReadyNation, January 2019. This report examines how the current child care crisis harms the American economy and what can be done to recover the estimated $57 billion dollars the U.S. loses annually because of the inaccessibility of high-quality child care.


Explore racial and gender inequities in the child care system

  • A Lifetime’s Worth of Benefits: The Effects of Affordable, High-Quality Child Care on Family Income, the Gender Earnings Gap, and Women’s Retirement Security. National Women’s Law Center, April 2021. This report examines the long-term benefits of an updated child care system, including narrowing the gender pay gap and increasing the lifetime earnings of Black and Latina women.
  • Women of color and women with children disproportionately left the labor force during the COVID-19 pandemic. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, February 2022. This article investigates the links between the COVID-19 pandemic, a deficient child care system, and the disproportionate number of mothers and women of color who have left the labor force.
  • What Does Accountable and Justice-Oriented Early Childhood Education Look Like? Early Learning Nation, June 2022. This article identifies some of the core roadblocks keeping families of color and low-income families from accessing child care and advocates for key strategies and policies that can help build an equitable system for all.


Identify solutions and innovations to create accessible, equitable child care for all

  • How States Would Benefit If Congress Truly Invested in Child Care and Pre-K. The Century Foundation, March 2022. This article explores the widespread benefits of comprehensive child care and early learning policy, as well as how an equitable and accessible child care system ultimately bolsters economic growth and security.
  • Op-ed: Every news outlet needs a child care beat. Columbia Journalism Review, January 2022. This article spotlights the importance of reporting on child care daily and explores how child care is inextricably linked to the economy and politics.
  • Paid Family and Medical Leave Project. Better Life Lab. This collection of stories, briefs, and research shines a light on the shortcomings of paid family and medical leave in the U.S. Featured resources include a side-by-side timeline comparing common parental leave practices with maternal and infant health, as well as a report that investigates how the length of paid family leave impacts the well-being of both children and parents, gender equality, and the economy.

Happy reading!