Muddy thinking on child care

Five Thirty Eight had a disappointing discussion of an interesting issue: the cost of child care for working parents. The basic issue is that kids are expensive in time and money. Unfortunately, the discussion mostly revolved around questions of how to engage in economic engineering by government in order to expand access to child care and parental leave.

The hosts see these policies as having costs and benefits, and they see the value in studying alternatives empirically, but they miss an important issue: providing these sorts of goods doesn’t require screwing up markets by adding an extra layer of complexity to the tax code. If these goods are worth providing (that’s another couple of cans of worms) then just give money to new parents. Better yet, move to a basic income guarantee.

Another important point they miss is that if some good is difficult to get, it’s worth figuring out what to do about the root problem rather than just throwing money at the issue and hoping someone will figure out the important stuff later.

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