Is day care impossible?

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Originally published in the Boston Globe.

ON THE D.C. dinner-party circuit these days, Ivanka Trump is reportedly pushing her pet project: helping women advance in the labor force. As the president’s daughter chats up bigwigs and members of Congress, here’s hoping she’ll bring up the most fundamental challenge for working families: the impossible economics of child care.

To many new parents, the price tag for child care, a non-negotiable, multi-year expense, comes as a gut-wrenching shock. According to the Care Index, created by the think tank New America and Care.com, US parents pay, on average, nearly $800 per month for full-time, center-based care for children under 5. In Massachusetts, that cost is closer to $1,100 per month, about on par with the median state rent and fully a third of the median household income.

These prices, mind you, aren’t making American child-care workers rich; in 2015, their median wage was $9.77 an hour. Operating margins at day-care centers, meanwhile, have historically been thin. It’s not just some elite group of careerists that suffers the consequences. Two-income households are increasingly the norm, due to economic reality; government statistics show that in 2011, 64 percent of mothers of children under 6 were employed, as were more than half of mothers of infants.

They face a child-care system in disarray, riddled with long waiting lists and general discontent, dragging on economic mobility and sometimes public safety. Which raises a question for Ivanka, and for all of us: At what point should government step in?

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Rooting for Ivanka (maybe)

 

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Originally published in WBUR’s Cognoscenti.

It might be time to root for Ivanka Trump.

Not because Nordstrom dropped her shoe line, or Neiman’s dropped her jewelry, or TJ Maxx demoted her clothing from the most prominent racks. Ivanka will survive these retail tragedies.

It’s the tawdriness that will be harder to overcome.

First, Donald Trump attacked Nordstrom in a tweet for being “Terrible!” to his daughter. Then Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway declared, on Fox News, that Americans should “go buy Ivanka’s stuff.” And suddenly, it was harder for Ivanka to maintain her delicate balancing act she’s managed since this odd political experiment began: Supporting her father while protecting her personal brand.

That she managed for so long is no small accomplishment. Just look at the supporters and surrogates whose images have changed irrevocably over the last two years: Conway, Sean Spicer, Rudy Giuliani, Chris Christie.

Read the rest here.