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Majority of Parents Scale Back Work to Care for Kids

The Short of It

According to a new Washington Post poll, more than 75 percent of mothers and 50 percent of fathers in the United States say they've changed or quit jobs or passed up work opportunities to take care of their kids.

The Lowdown

The Washington Post poll, which was conducted June 24 to July 5 among a random national sample of 1,636 adults, revealed that the challenge of finding affordable, dependable childcare is shaping the careers of millions of American parents. About three-quarters of parents with children under age 18 say childcare is expensive in their area and a little more than half say it's difficult to find at all.

According to U.S. Census Bureau data, the average weekly cost of child care has risen more than 70 percent—from $87 to $148— over the past 30 years. Many parents find that it makes more financial sense for one parent to stay home with the kids than earn a salary that will largely, if not entirely, be used to pay for childcare. Other parents have changed to less challenging and lower paying jobs to allow more time for their children. According to the poll, more than 6 in 10 mothers have quit or switched jobs for these reasons, compared with fewer than 4 in 10 fathers.

Two-thirds of the parents in the poll who worked after having their first child, however, say they were satisfied with the flexibility in their work schedule to care for their children. Working mothers were less satisfied than working fathers, with only 59 percent of moms saying they were pleased, compared with 76 percent of dads.

The Upshot

The poll signals that access to affordable and reliable childcare will be an important issue in the 2016 presidential campaign, and politicians are already voicing their views on the issue. Advocates on the left want more public funding for high-quality care, while those on the right prefer tax breaks for businesses that cater to parental needs.

Although affordable childcare and flexible work situations are top issues, nearly one-fifth of the public said they lack faith that Democrats or Republicans could reduce the stresses of working parents. Forty-three percent of those polled said they trust Democrats to solve the problems, while only 22 percent of Americans chose Republicans.

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