The Cost of Child Care Regulation
A one-infant increase in the child–staff ratio requirement for infants is associated with a decrease in the cost of care of between 9 percent and 20 percent, which translates into a reduction in the annual cost of child care of between $850 and $1,890 for the average cost of care across states.
This is from Diana W. Thomas and Devon Gorry, “Regulation and the Cost of Child Care,” Mercatus Working Paper, August 2015. Diana tells me that it was later published but that this working paper contains the essence of their findings.
This is huge. Allowing just one more infant per care giver would dramatically reduce the cost of child care.
If I had known about this study when I was fighting a proposed new property tax to pay for child care, it would have strengthened my argument.
HT2 Vincent Geloso.
May 24 2023 at 12:05pm
What are the trade offs? How many kids roll off a changing table if the care providers are managing too many kids? How many kids swallow something they should not since they arent being watched as closely? Also, she didnt show her work but I hope she accounted for needing to pay people more if they manage more kids.
Setting education requirements for infant care doesnt make much sense, so I agree on that. Interesting that she thinks there was real value in college level education for the care of older kids.
May 24 2023 at 12:17pm
Those don’t seem to be the relevant tradeoffs, at least along this margin (see Section 3).
I’m not sure that effect would dominate, on average. Reforming the regulations would cause the supply curve of workers to increase, which would lower the wage (by reducing the marginal productivity of workers).
May 24 2023 at 12:19pm
Actually, on my last point, the authors agree with you and not with me:
May 24 2023 at 2:34pm
All good questions. And all questions that parents are in position to ask. The government is not needed.
May 24 2023 at 5:10pm
We know that parents pretty often make decisions that are detrimental to their kids. So what you are advocating here is that rather then trying to stop decisions that might harm kids we should let the harms occur then prosecute the parents afterwards while the taxpayers are likely the ones that pay for the decision? Maybe you are advocating that the government not be involved in paying fo the care of poor children? Does the government have any role in protecting kids or should it be limited to reacting after the fact?
May 24 2023 at 5:29pm
You have such confidence in government. I’m not sure why.
You seem to think that parents care less about their kids than about whom they vote for and that the people they vote for will choose other people, whom these parents don’t even know, who will make better decisions for kids they don’t know than the parents would make.
May 25 2023 at 10:54am
I dont think, I know that a lot of parents make bad decisions for their kids and many dont seem to care much about them at all. I see them in the ED/ICU/OR. You actually know that too if you think about it. Drug addicts and alcoholics are obvious but there are also many that for personal issues or just arent that bright (half of the country is below average intelligence) or really arent interested in thinking for themselves so just do what they are told by their favored authority figure. A lot of those kids show up in our emergency rooms.
So the majority of parents will make good decisions. You are correct that we dont need laws/rules/regulations for them. However, we have the rest, which is not as small a percentage as one would hope. If we follow what I think is your preferred plan, assuming I understand it, the only recourse is to have kids get hurt then try to fix them and maybe we can take some sort of action legally against them. To top it off, poor people are often poor people as someone said, so bad decisions will be more common among the poor. All of the rest of us will pay the costs to fix the kids, if possible.
May 25 2023 at 11:14am
Steve, the decision impact of parents regarding number of staff at these childcare is much lower than impact of most other things parents decide about their children.
So do I understand correctly, that you want parents to make virtually no decisions about their children?
May 25 2023 at 3:06pm
andy- Not what I said. I specifically said I think that most parents will make good decisions, but we know many parents dont. So is there any role for government in trying to protect kids? You have to live in a very isolated world to not realize how badly some kids are treated or how bad some parents treat their kids. David seems to be advocating that we make no attempt to protect kids which means our only recourse is to try to fix these kids after they are damaged. In this particular case there is a body of literature looking at ratios and you do have safety issues as the ratio increases.
In the case of child care you could take a number of approaches. You could just require child care places to publish their care ratios and the risks/benefits associated with their chosen ratio. As noted, some parents just arent that bright and wouldn’t think to question that but when seen in writing they could make an informed decision. Maybe we make it easier to sue if a center staffs above known safe ratios. Maybe we require the centers to carry insurance so that if a child is damaged at least their insurance would cover the costs rather than the rest of us.
At any rate, you need to choose your trade offs. Is it better to limit the choices of parents who will make good decisions, knowing that they will largely choose the safer option anyway, or do we opt for higher risks for kids and how much higher is OK? Oh, and who pays?
May 26 2023 at 9:52am
First, if I recall correctly, you’re a medical doctor? If that is the case, then it’s probable you’re seeing selection bias. But also, not every child (or, probably, even a majority of them) end up in the ER due to bad parenting. God knows, I was in and out of the ER a lot as a child because my parents cared deeply about me.
Second, I do not see how the ER point is relevant at all.
May 26 2023 at 2:43pm
Jon- The ER is relevant because if we are going to not have any effort to protect kids from parents who make bad decisions we will have more end up in the ER. Yes, good parents have kids end up in the ER when they let them play sports, go hiking or whatever, but those usually arent because of bad decisions or they didnt care about the kids. The 5 y/o who ends up in the ER because his dad drinks a lot and likes to leave his gun lying around unattended, that’s bad parenting.
May 26 2023 at 6:24pm
That’s why I’m saying the point is irrelevant. This isn’t about ER visits. It’s about child care.
May 25 2023 at 11:46am
I notice that you didn’t address my point about parents being too uncaring about their kids but somehow being caring and informed about whom to vote for. How do you address that?
May 25 2023 at 11:48pm
I’ll take a crack at that, on Steve’s behalf.
There is both the responsible majority of voters/parents, and the irresponsible minority. The former, by virtue of numbers, dominate the elections, electing responsible government officials; they also make sound decisions for their children. The latter must be coerced by the responsible government officials to do right by their children; ideally, they would also be deprived of the right to vote.
I think Steve should want children with irresponsible parents to be taken away from those parents and brought up by responsible foster parents, or in orphanages operated by responsible government officials. He should not favor government regulation of childcare of the sort we have now.
May 26 2023 at 2:37pm
David- I would say that people do stupid, uninformed, non-caring stuff all of the time. As long as it doesnt harm others we should mostly stay out of it. In the case of children, they are uniquely dependent upon their parents, unable to protect themselves and may be harmed by the bad decisions parents make so I think their is a role for govt to protect them.
Philo- I agree with some of that but it’s really not a binary issue, though I am pretty sure you weren’t trying to imply that. In the worst cases we should take away people’s kids, but there is a large spectrum between good parents and the ones who shouldn’t have kids. Some parents are just lazy, or cheap or just arent all that bright. They may really want to make good decisions but dont know how or wont/cant go to the effort to learn. In those cases I dont think we necessarily need to take the kids but we can prompt them to do safe things and we can do that without a lot of cost to the good parents.
May 26 2023 at 6:14pm
“steve” has effectively derailed the discussion from child care to how the legal system should handle parents who don’t take good care of their kids.
There’s little connection between the child care issue I raised and the ones he raises. If a parent sends a child to a child care provider who has one more child per caretaker, how would one be able to charge the parent with treating the child badly?