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The Kathleen Babineaux Blanco Public Policy Center at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette examines the economics of early care and education in its most recent public policy brief.

“Blanco Center Policy Briefs” provide high-level summaries of issues relevant to policy makers and voters in Louisiana.

Evidence-based data and research in the “Child Care and the Economy” policy brief focuses on the impact of early care and education on the state’s workforce and businesses.

In 2020, more than 125,000 children in Louisiana received early care, which costs an average of $8,580 yearly. While that amount is lower than the national average of $11,896, it’s “nevertheless an expense many families in Louisiana – especially working families – struggle to afford,” said Dr. Stephen Barnes, Blanco Public Policy Center director.

“When parents must miss work to care for their children, the resulting productivity and income losses, decreased purchasing power, job turnover and other factors create a profound ripple effect. The economic impact extends far beyond one family or one employer,” Barnes said.

According to “Child Care and the Economy,” Louisiana businesses lose a collective $762 million each year as a result of workers staying home to care for children. Overall, the hit to the state’s economy is $1.3 billion.

Dr. Libbie Sonnier, Louisiana Policy Institute for Children executive director, said such findings underscore “the critical need for increased access to early care and education across Louisiana.”

“About 78% of working families have difficulty finding quality, affordable child care without assistance. As a state, we must prioritize funding mechanisms that make early care and education accessible for our working families,” Sonnier said.

Troy Wayman, One Acadiana president and CEO, said altered school schedules, job losses and child care facility closures during the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated “an already strong need to invest in high-quality child care.”

“It’s an investment that will help parents return to work, and economic recovery relies on people’s ability to go back to work,” Wayman said.

“It’s also an investment that will pay long-term dividends in the state’s workforce,” he added.

According to research in the brief, children who receive high-quality early care and education have better math and reading skills, a greater chance of graduating from high school and, ultimately, earn higher salaries.

“Child Care and the Economy” was developed as part of a collaboration with the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children. The brief updates research that the institute conducted with LSU’s Public Policy Research Lab and Entergy in 2017.

“Child Care and the Economy” follows the Blanco Center’s recent “Funding Infrastructure in Louisiana” brief, which details the long-term economic impact of investment in the state’s highways, roads and bridges.

Both briefs can be read on the Blanco Center’s website.

Photo caption: Early care and education is the focus of the most recent public policy brief from the Kathleen Babineaux Blanco Public Policy Center at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Photo credit: Doug Dugas / University of Louisiana at Lafayette