Season 2 of Six Hundred Atlantic podcast focuses on child care’s troubled role in the economy Season 2 of Six Hundred Atlantic podcast focuses on child care’s troubled role in the economy

Parents and experts agree child care is broken, but how should we fix it? Parents and experts agree child care is broken, but how should we fix it?

May 20, 2021

For too many Americans, the nation's child care system is broken. Many parents strain to afford it, low-paid workers struggle to stay in it, and high-quality care can be difficult to find.

A key weakness in this mostly private market is that providers can’t charge what quality truly costs without pricing out many parents. So, while the industry struggles to balance affordability and quality, some families get shut out, others stuck in inferior care, and the workforce and economy suffer for it.

The pandemic has only exacerbated the fragile industry’s problems, but major reform has been elusive –even though Americans on both sides of the political aisle agree something needs to be done. Is change coming, or will we continue to limp along with our current system?

In this season of the Boston Fed’s Six Hundred Atlantic podcast, host Jay Lindsay talks to experts, economists, politicians, parents, and providers to explore the child care sector’s frustrating past, challenging present, and uncertain future.

Child care’s impact on labor force participation makes it highly relevant to the Fed’s mandated focus on maximum sustainable employment.

“Child care issues have challenged the economy for decades,” Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren said. “What the pandemic did was put those challenges under a spotlight. A lack of reliable, affordable childcare is a major barrier to employment for many Americans. So, it’s the right time talk about this, to use the spotlight to bring about real improvements.”

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Indeed, many experts say the time to act is now.

“Child care reform is currently being discussed on the national stage,” said Beth Mattingly, an assistant vice president at the Boston Fed who has long studied child care dynamics. “Having this discussion now is important because the opportunity exists to affect real change that can help families participate in the economy -- and in doing so, promote an equitable, inclusive, and diverse workforce.”

Throughout five episodes, the podcast examines why comprehensive reform just hasn’t happened. Attitudes about the family, the poor, racial disparities, and a woman’s role in the home and in the workforce all come into play. A theme throughout the podcast is that this problem has a broad impact – it doesn’t just affect families with small children.

Along with exploring the sector’s problems, this season examines possible solutions – private and public, and for the latter, state and federal.

“Many people don’t realize that this affects everyone, whether you are a parent or not,” said host Jay Lindsay. “We wanted to take on this topic to show how far-reaching the problems are and see what people are saying about how to fix them. Because comprehensive reform would involve significant expense, and there’s real debate about what’s possible and what it should look like.”

Click here to subscribe now and get more information on the release of A Private Crisis: Season Two of the Six Hundred Atlantic podcast. New episodes are available through Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and Tune In.

“Change in the child care sector really can happen,” says Sarah Savage, a senior policy analyst at the Boston Fed, and a child care expert. “And addressing this problem really matters. It affects the workforce, and parents, and children. We hope this podcast gets people talking about child care and ways to finally make it better for working parents, the economy, and indeed for everyone.”

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