Is this finally the moment Americans get universal child care?
Mar 9, 2021
Episode 385

Is this finally the moment Americans get universal child care?

The COVID-19 relief bill increases the child tax credit to help working families. Is this the start of a new way of thinking about the benefits we provide to working parents?

We don’t need to tell you America has a child care problem. Many of you can feel it. We certainly can; one of our producers changed a diaper during today’s taping.

Women’s workforce participation is at a 30-year low, in part because so many are busy caring for children at home during the COVID-19 pandemic and taking on a disproportionate amount of other domestic work. With virtually no public child care, parents are left with a patchwork of options, and they’re not cheap.

COVID-19 has thrown this problem into sharp relief, but it’s not a new one. Sonya Michel wrote about it 22 years ago in “Children’s Interests/Mothers’ Rights: The Shaping of America’s Child Care Policy.”

“I thought, like many first time authors, that once my book was published, everybody would see the light, and the policy would change immediately,” she said. “For some strange reason that hasn’t happened.”

On today’s show, we’ll talk with Michel, a professor emerita at the University of Maryland, about the history of government-sponsored child care in this country, its economic benefits and whether the new, $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill could actually bring about long-term change.

Later, we’ll go deep on the relief bill and its global economic effects. Plus we hear from listeners about zombie apocalypse range anxiety and the woman who helped get us to Mars. Finally, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky answers the Make Me Smart question.

When you’re done listening, tell your Echo device to “make me smart” for our daily explainers. This week we’re introducing you to a bunch of incredible women: Sarah B. Cochran, Dolores Huerta, Kim Ng and more. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter! You can find the latest issue here.

Here are links to everything we talked about on the show today:

We need your voice memos! Tell us what you think of the show or ask a question for us to answer! Here’s how to do it.

None of us is as smart as all of us.

No matter how bananapants your day is, “Make Me Smart” is here to help you through it all— 5 days a week.

It’s never just a one-way conversation. Your questions, reactions, and donations are a vital part of the show. And we’re grateful for every single one.

Donate any amount to become a Marketplace Investor and help make us smarter (and make us smile!) every day.

The team

Marissa Cabrera Senior Producer
Bridget Bodnar Senior Producer
Tony Wagner Digital Producer