Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Would the Frenchification of American Child Care Save Money? Some, But Not Enough On Its Own.

There's lots to read about today in child care news. Dylan Matthews, rhythm guitarist for Ezra and the Kleinettes, interviewed TNR's Jonathan Cohn on the state of American child care. There's lots of meaty stuff in there, so be sure to read both the interview and Cohn's reporting in TNR. Elsewhere, Jessica Gross of Slate looks at France's child care and spots their higher adult-to-child ratios as an opportunity to either make care affordable or increase caregiver quality by raising salaries:
Writing in the American Prospect in 2000 (which shows how little progress we’ve made on this front in the past decade plus), Victor Fuchs outlines a proposal to make American childcare more French—one that would not cost parents any more money. He recommends increasing the child-to-worker ratio. The French ratio of children to workers is nearly twice that of their American day care counterparts, which means that a French day care program with the same number of children as an American one pays each of its workers more.
Fuchs' data appears to be out of date. It's true that the adult-to-child ratio for pre-schoolers is much higher in France than in the US. But the ratio for infants & toddlers is not much higher. Here's the data from the OECD for infants & toddlers:



And here's the same thing for preschoolers:


Relaxing these ratios might produce substantial savings at the preschool level, but it's not clear that moving from a 4-to-1 ratio to 5-to-1 would suddenly lead to drastically cheaper infant care. Other factors are likely in play. After all, as Cohn points out, France spends has almost twice the per-child spending on child care as the United States, and most of that spending is public there, but private here.
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