This report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Center for Education and Workforce advocates the importance of high-quality child care for working families.
Click here for the full report or read the Executive Summary below.
American business depends on a strong workforce, now and in the future, to compete and succeed globally. But America is facing an unprecedented workforce crisis: a large and growing shortage of skilled workers. From Wall Street to Main Street, the world of work is changing—and our strategies for developing tomorrow’s workforce must change with it.
Business leaders have long understood the importance of a well-educated workforce to support a strong economy, keep America competitive globally, and ensure a vibrant democracy. And they have long played a leadership role in strengthening the education pipeline so crucial to our economic growth and prosperity. Yet our nation’s K–12 system is falling short in preparing new generations for the ever-changing demands of the 21st century workplace.
One root of this problem is that we’ve underestimated the importance of the earliest years of life. For most of history, the essential early foundation for all subsequent learning and development was laid largely in the home. But today, an unprecedented number of American mothers are in the workforce, and millions of young children are in paid childcare for a substantial portion of their early years. And while childcare is a necessary support for working parents, it also has a critical impact on children during the most consequential phase of human development.
Research shows that starting at birth, young children are continuously and rapidly learning— wherever they are and from whomever they’re with. Indeed, the commonly made distinction between “care” and “education” in early childhood is a false one. Childcare is early education, regardless of the building it occurs in or what we call it. The question is only whether it’s advancing or impeding children’s learning.
Extraordinary development occurs from birth to age 5, forming the bedrock for lifelong health, intellectual ability, emotional well-being, and social functioning. A broad set of socially and economically valuable skills start developing in children’s very first months, build over time, and are critical determinants of academic and economic success. Although a sturdy base of early skill and ability is not alone sufficient for children’s long-term success, without it, the effectiveness of later investments in education and training are substantially reduced.
By laying the crucial groundwork for tomorrow’s workforce and promoting a strong workforce today, high-quality childcare provides a powerful two-generation approach to building the human capital that a prosperous and sustainable America requires. It supports parents: increasing completion of postsecondary education, raising labor force participation, increasing workforce productivity, and helping business attract and retain talent. And it ensures that children have the chance to develop well and begin kindergarten ready to thrive in school, work, and life.
For American business, advancing high-quality childcare is a winning proposition. It’s a wise investment in America’s future—strengthening business today while building the workforce we’ll depend on tomorrow and for decades to come.