Everything to Know About Elizabeth Warren’s Universal Child-Care Plan

Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Senator Elizabeth Warren. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

In the face of America’s child-care crisis, Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren has proposed a bold new plan to make high-quality care affordable for all.

In a Medium post published Tuesday evening, Warren unveiled an ambitious $700 billion proposal for universal child care, which would make it so that no family spends more than 7 percent of their income on quality minor supervision. In short, Warren argues that all Americans deserve access to affordable child care — not just the country’s most privileged.

“In the wealthiest country on the planet, access to affordable and high-quality child care and early education should be a right, not a privilege reserved for the rich,” she writes.

Beyond its inarguable impact on parents struggling to pay for care, the plan would benefit industry workers — and, obviously, kids. Below, here’s everything to know about Warren’s universal child-care plan.

What is the current state of child care in the U.S.?

The cost of child care varies across the country, but in general, it’s unaffordable — so much so that people who would otherwise want to have kids are abstaining because of the cost. Last July, the New York Times asked approximately 2,000 men and women between the ages of 20 and 45 who have fewer kids than they’d ideally want why that’s the case, and 64 percent laid blame on the exorbitantly high cost of child care. In Kansas, for example, the average one-child family has to spend $11,201 on infant care alone — or more than 11 percent of their income — which is unaffordable for more than 65.5 percent of families in the state, per the Economic Policy Institute.

What does Warren’s plan propose?

According to Warren’s Medium post, her policy has four pillars:

• The federal government will partner with local providers —  states, cities, school districts, nonprofits, tribes, faith-based organizations  —  to create a network of child-care options that would be available to every family.

• These options would include locally licensed child-care centers, preschool centers, and in-home child-care options.

• Local communities would be in charge, but providers would be held to high national standards to make sure that no matter where you live, your child will have access to quality care and early learning.

• Child care and preschool workers will be doing the educational work that teachers do, so they will be paid like comparable public school teachers.

While Warren isn’t the first presidential candidate to promote a progressive child-care plan (Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders proposed federal preschool and child-care plans during the 2016 presidential campaign), hers is one the most ambitious yet. Per her Medium post, the federal government would pay for a significant chunk of the costs: local providers would ensure that families never pay more than 7 percent of their income on child care, and for families whose income is 200 percent of the federal poverty level, the care would be free. (According to the 2019 Federal Poverty Level Guideliens, a three-person household at this level would have an annual income of $42,660.) Per an economic analysis Warren cites in her post, 12 million children would benefit from her plan.

How would the plan be paid for?

In total, Warren’s plan would cost approximately $700 billion over 10 years (or approximately $70 billion annually), and would be funded by her “Ultra-Millionaire Tax.” Under this annual wealth tax, families with a net worth of more than $50 million would pay a small annual sum that experts say would raise $2.75 trillion in ten years.

Elizabeth Warren’s Universal Child-Care Plan: What to Know