Biden gives the wrong answer to the baby bust: Subsidized day care for everyone!

The Biden White House last week acknowledged America’s record-low-and-still-falling birthrate and then issued an entirely inapt analysis and unfitting prescription which happened to match the White House’s ideological leanings.

President Joe Biden’s Council of Economic Advisers sees our baby bust and prescribes more day care, more federal subsidies for day care, and more mothers of young children working outside the home.

For the past 16 years, the country has had fewer and fewer children every year, and the birthrate has just hit 1.62 children per woman — a record low. America’s working-age population has flatlined and will soon start falling while the number of retirees continues to grow. This increasing “old-age-dependency ratio,” the White House agrees, will be bad for the economy, as we have more consumers and fewer people making things or performing services.

The White House, however, reassures us that “growth in labor force participation and labor productivity can be countervailing forces that mitigate the impact of an aging population.”

This is true. But the White House bizarrely focuses its discussion of labor force participation on mothers of young children rather than on the real cause of falling labor force participation, which is middle-aged people, as Washington Examiner opinion writer Tiana Lowe Doescher explained.

“Accessing dependent care is an example of one particularly severe constraint to labor force participation,” the White House says before going on for paragraphs about the need for universal day care.

But focusing on mothers is missing the story, as the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco makes clear: “While [labor force participation] for women overall has declined since 2019, the entire decline comes from the 55 and older age group, with almost no change in trend for women of prime working age, 25–54.”

Women are already 49.9% of all workers in America. Why should it be a policy goal to make sure more women are working than men?

The liberal Vox recently explained that there is no crisis of mothers dropping out of the workforce: “Larger shares of moms of both preschool and school-age children working now than at any time in history. Most of the labor market gains have been driven by moms with young kids under the age of 5, with roughly 70 percent of them holding down some formal job.”

The White House tries to make it sound like there’s some massive shortage of childcare, but as Vox reports: “Jobs in the child care sector … have continued to expand, with more people working in the sector as of April than in any time on record.”

The Biden team’s evidence of a child care shortage is laughable: “The Center for American Progress estimates that 50 percent of families live in child care deserts: areas that do not have enough child care supply to meet demand.”

The partisan CAP’s “child care deserts” include all sorts of places with thriving families with lots of marriage and lots of children and a healthy supply of (gasp) stay-at-home mothers, extended family, and strong communities. Check out the suburbs of Salt Lake City for a good example.

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The basic fact is this: Mothers in America don’t want day care as much as the Biden White House wishes they did. The CEA is upset that labor-force participation rates “among mothers of young children have historically lagged that of mothers of older children and women as a whole.”

That is, the economists in Biden’s White House think the problem is that some mothers want to stay at home.

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