Free Public Child Care and Pre-K Is Popular and Affordable


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In February of last year, the People’s Policy Project released its Family Fun Pack, a suite of family benefits that would make parenting easy and affordable for everyone. One of the proposals in the Family Fun Pack is to have the federal government grant money to local school districts so that they can provide free public child care and pre-kindergarten to all children below school age.

Since that time, many politicians have expressed interest in this idea, including the three candidates that the People’s Policy Project endorsed for Congress and Senator Bernie Sanders.

Popularity

Given this interest, 3P commissioned a poll late last year to determine the popularity of the proposal. The poll asked:

Would you support or oppose a policy to have the federal government provide grants to local school districts to provide free public child care for all children too young to attend school?

The poll revealed that the proposal was quite popular, especially among Democrats, young people, and those with lower incomes.

  • Overall: 57% support, 35% oppose.
  • Democrats: 82% support, 12% oppose.
  • Age 18-29: 66% support, 22% oppose.
  • Age 30-44: 74% support, 20% oppose.
  • Income $0k-$30k: 65% support, 22% oppose.

Even among groups where support was not as high as the above, net support was still generally positive. For instance, the proposal had more support than opposition in every income group, every racial group, among both men and women, and in every age group except senior citizens.

Cost

I estimate that a free child care and pre-k program will cost 0.5 percent to 0.9 percent of GDP annually, depending on precisely how it is designed and modeling assumptions. By comparison, the military budget is currently 3.4 percent of GDP. If we cut the military budget to fund the program, it would still be, by far, the largest military budget in the world and well above the 2 percent NATO target.

It is clear then that the program is both affordable and popular. More politicians would be wise to adopt the idea as their own.