Event | Event | November 30, 2023

South Carolina Business Leaders Release Troubling Report on Growing Economic Impacts of the Child Care Crisis

A new report from ReadyNation shows the estimated costs of South Carolina’s infant & toddler child care shortage could cost $1.4 billion annually

TAYLORS- South Carolina business leaders released a shocking new report from ReadyNation showing South Carolina’s infant and toddler child care crisis costs families, businesses and taxpayers an estimated $1.4 billion each year. Just four years ago, the estimated impact was less than half as large.

The report, The Growing, Annual Cost of Infant-Toddler Child Care Crisis in South Carolina, lays out the deep impacts of the child care crisis and the dire need for expanded state investment, as well as encouraging policymakers to work to lessen the burden. Business leaders gathered Thursday morning at the Small Impressions Child Care Center to discuss the current crisis and steps that should be taken. They were joined by ReadyNation National Director Nancy Fishman and LaVonda Paul, Director of Small Impressions Child Care Center.

“The child care problem is growing at an alarming rate,” said Bob Morgan, ReadyNation member and President and CEO of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce. “We know that 61 percent of our 167,000 children birth through age 3 have mothers in the workforce. And that 42 percent of South Carolinians live in child care deserts where there are more than three children under age five for each licensed child care slot. ReadyNation’s new national study found that America’s infant-toddler child care crisis now costs the nation $122 billion in lost earnings, productivity, and revenue every year. And here in South Carolina, the lack of sufficient child care for young children is estimated to cost $1.4 billion a year. It is both shocking and sobering. Businesses all over our state are talking about the lack of high-quality, affordable child care being one of the leading workforce barriers.”

“Right now, South Carolina’s child care system isn’t working well. Parents can’t find child care providers with open slots and child care providers are barely scraping by. Too many child care providers are leaving the jobs they love to make more money elsewhere to support their own families. We know there’s a crisis. We hope policymakers will address child care affordability and accessibility challenges this coming session,” said Jack McBride, CEO of Contec, Inc., and a member of ReadyNation’s national CEO Task Force and Board of Directors.. “Investments in child care are investments in our economy. And the ReadyNation report data shows that the cost of not doing more is greater than the cost of shoring up the system.”

ReadyNation National Director Nancy Fishman explained the parent survey data and economic analysis applied to parents’ responses to generate estimated costs to families, businesses and the state’s economy.

“We surveyed parents of infants and toddlers and asked them how problems with child care impacted their work lives along four dimensions: productivity, time at work, work disruptions, and career pathways and development. Across each of these domains, between one-quarter to two-thirds of the parents reported impacts, ranging from missing work, working reduced hours, losing a job, or foregoing career advancement,” Fishman said “For example 64% of parents surveyed said they were either late to work or left early, 26% said they left their job and 24% said they were fired due to child care challenges. When we take this data and estimate the economic impact for just South Carolina – the sobering fact is that the current child care crisis’ is hurting families, businesses and taxpayers at a cost of about $1.4 billion each year.”

The new South Carolina report makes the case that the state needs to support evidence-based policies and programs that enhance the availability and affordability of high-quality child care. Morgan and McBride mentioned the new legislative study committee on child care, and that they are hopeful that group of policymakers will offer investments and policy strategies to grow high-quality child care across the state.

Small Impressions Child Development Center Director Lavonda Paul echoed the pressing crisis faced by child care programs in South Carolina, “Without question programs have long wait lists and a huge need for increased workforce. My program is currently licensed for 139 children, but we only have 65 enrolled due to lack of staff.”

Paul also points to the low wages as a disincentive for more workers to join the child care field. According to the ReadyNation report, the mean wage for child care providers in South Carolina is $25,050 annually, or about $12 per hour. By comparison, preschool teachers earn $33,520 annually and kindergarten teachers earn $52,960 annually.

Read the report here

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