(Not) Valuing Care: A Review of Recent Popular Economic Reports on Preschool in the US
Recently, a series of popular economics “Invest in Kids” (IIK) reports in the United States has called for increased investment in children's early education. These national reports articulate a new concept, the “public finance value” of children, and argue for increased investment in preschool because of its positive impact on the long-term fiscal health of the nation. This paper analyzes the IIK reports from 2003-6 to assess their attention to the multidimensional aspects of early care and education (ECE) in the US. Although the reports evaluate increased investment in preschool, they fail to recognize the need for a comprehensive system of ECE that includes support for childcare and the unpaid care and education provided by parents. As a result, the reports undervalue the contributions of women and of the ECE sector itself. Feminist economics offers a broader perspective that would help the IIK authors avoid conceptual traps and recognize the need for more comprehensive reforms.
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