Every year, inadequate childcare causes the US economy to take a $122B hit, according to a study by an economist at the University of Pennsylvania. This economic hit affects everyone—workers, businesses, and taxpayers. Parents lose income when they miss work to take care of a child. Businesses suffer from lower productivity when employees are absent. Taxpayers end up paying more when parents leave the workforce and generate fewer tax revenues. Future economic growth slows when tax revenues decline.
The COVID pandemic brought this issue to the forefront. “… COVID amplified how crucial and under-resourced the childcare sector is. And also how vital it is to our economy,” said Tara Colton, executive vice president of economic security at the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. “Now we talk about (childcare) as (part of the) economic infrastructure. We see … the significant impacts of (inadequate childcare) on the ability of our economy to function and the ability of people to return to the workforce, advance in the workforce, etcetera.”
Throughout the country, these issues are being addressed by SSTI members and their close associates.
University City Science Center/Washington University and BioSTL
The University Science Center in Philadelphia has incorporated childcare into two STEM-focused programs. One, FirstHand, is a free out-of-school time (OST) youth STEM education program. OST scheduling helps working parents keep kids in safe, supportive, enriching settings during parents’ workday, playing an essential role when affordable childcare is scarce. The program also runs during daytime hours. The second program, Building an Understanding of Lab Basics (BULB), gives adults introductory lab training. Participants receive stipends that allow them to pay their bills and care for their families while they complete training.
Two other SSTI members, Washington University and BioSTL, coordinate training for a program in St. Louis, MO that is similar to BULB, in that it that combines bioscience industry training with childcare.