The Importance of Childcare to U.S. Families and Businesses

Pandemic-Induced Childcare Challenges Could Forever Change the Workforce

New U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation research reveals how lack of childcare solutions can affect working parents’ careers, with women disproportionately impacted 

Washington, D.C.— The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation today released a new report, “Piecing Together Solutions: The Importance of Childcare to U.S. Families and Businesses,” synthesizing months of research that examined the difficulties the COVID-19 pandemic has created in relation to childcare, and the hard choices parents, employers, and policymakers have had to make. 

"Childcare is the foundation of our economy, enabling the more than 14 million parents with young children to participate in the workforce," said Cheryl Oldham, senior vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. “It’s clear that if we don’t find long-term cross-sector solutions to this crisis, the negative impact on our workforce and economy will be felt for years to come.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, many difficulties have remained unresolved and even compounded over time. From June to October 2020, two out of three working parents changed their childcare arrangement due to COVID-19, and the number of workers who left the workforce due to COVID-19 far exceeded what employers expected. 

Key findings from the study include:

  • Temporary changes are having long-lasting effects. Without long-term solutions for childcare arrangements, working parents are beginning to make decisions that will have enduring effects on the workforce. As of October, 11 percent of parents report declining a new opportunity, such as a promotion or a new job, to provide childcare in the last three months, and six percent have left the workforce entirely. For those who have left the workforce entirely, the primary reason was the inability to find childcare solutions that meet their needs. Furthermore, 20 percent of currently employed parents report that they will likely quit their job if their school district adopts an online learning model. Thirty-four percent report that they will need to reduce their hours, and 26 percent will need to find a new job.
  • Women are disproportionately impacted. Women are more likely to have declined a new job opportunity than men (13 percent vs. 7 percent) and more likely to have left the workforce (9 percent vs. 2 percent). Seventeen percent of women are unsure or unlikely to return to work, compared to six percent of men. Even for women who plan to return to work, their return is happening at a much slower rate than men. By October, 77 percent of men had already returned to work, compared to 54 percent of women.
  • Parents, employers, and providers are all experiencing financial stress. Twenty-seven percent of parents are paying for childcare they are not using, largely related to health and safety concerns about their children. As parents leave the workforce to provide childcare, employers face high turnover costs. Many providers have not had access to public funding, and half of those surveyed have had to raise tuition to stay in business. 
  • Consistent coordination between stakeholders is necessary to drive solutions. Working together best equips parents, employers, and providers to improve outcomes. Stakeholders can create systems of feedback, openly discuss issues, and collect data to inform potential actions. Policymakers can seek input from those affected and consider which type of childcare assistance would be most valuable.  

The culminating report represents months of research conducted by the U.S. Chamber Foundation since the beginning of the pandemic. It shows that the repercussions of childcare challenges are serious and wide-ranging, creating instability, financial stress, and career decisions that will all have serious implications long after the pandemic's end. These factors make up what the U.S. Chamber Foundation refers to as the "Childcare Equation." Sign up for updates to follow the Chamber Foundation's work on early childhood education.

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About the U.S. Chamber Foundation 
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation is dedicated to strengthening America's long-term competitiveness. We educate the public on the conditions necessary for business and communities to thrive, how business positively impacts communities, and emerging issues and creative solutions that will shape the future.  

About the U.S. Chamber of Commerce 
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world's largest business organization representing companies of all sizes across every sector of the economy. Our members range from the small businesses and local chambers of commerce that line the Main Streets of America to leading industry associations and large corporations.
They all share one thing: they count on the U.S. Chamber to be their voice in Washington, across the country, and around the world. For more than 100 years, we have advocated for pro-business policies that help businesses create jobs and grow our economy.