In his first address to Congress, President Biden proposed spending an extra $225 billion on child care. That’s on top of the $40 billion the administration is already spending as part of the “bailout” of child-care providers in Mr. Biden’s American Rescue Plan, and the $10.3 billion the federal government normally spends on child-care subsidies. The new plan, billed as an effort to help low- and moderate-income families, would put America on a path to becoming a society where the state assumes much of the care of young children. Many Republicans have balked at the cost of Mr. Biden’s spending blowout, but in this case the substance matters more than the money. A dramatic expansion of child care is a bad deal for American parents. More important, it’s a bad deal for American children.
Not surprisingly, data from a recent YouGov/American Compass survey show that upper-class Americans are most likely to prefer a work-family model in which two earners rely on child care. Poor, working-class and middle-class survey respondents prefer a model with one parent working full-time and the other providing at-home child care. Many families put their kids into child care because they have to, but the clear majority of Americans say they want to spend more time with their kids. Those preferences aren’t misguided. In fact, the highest quality standards for child care promote exactly what happens in the average home—one adult in an active, stable and encouraging relationship with two to three children. This standard is difficult to duplicate in institutional settings, especially on a large scale. Public policy should reflect what most parents want instead of doubling down on the model preferred by American elites.