How Much Will Families Pay for Childcare Under Clinton vs. Trump?

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton (Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images)Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton (Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images)
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. (Photo: Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images)
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We already know that there are differences in proposals for childcare costs and paid leave from Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. In the broadest terms, Trump says he plans to address these issues through tax credits and special savings accounts for children that parents can contribute to tax-free, and six weeks of paid maternity leave for a child’s biological mother. In contrast, Clinton’s focus is on ensuring that childcare expenses are capped at 10 percent of a family’s total income through tax credits, helping more student-parents have access to childcare, and offering 12 weeks of paid family leave to anyone who needs to care for an immediate family member, whether a mother or a father wishing to care for a child, or an adult needing to care for an ailing parent.

When Trump announced his plan with the promise of allowing parents to “fully deduct” the cost of childcare on their taxes, he said, “We need working mothers to be fairly compensated for their work, and to have access to affordable, quality childcare for their kids.” The details of his plan, though, told a different story, as reported by multiple media outlets.

But that didn’t stop the political rhetoric. Trump supporter Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., told reporters that childcare and its financial implications are “a family issue. We know men always want more money. What do women want? More time. And we are thrilled to finally have a president of the United States who is going to put the focus on working with women to make certain you can achieve your American dream.”

The Clinton campaign, however, found such claims to be unrealistic.

“We’re not living in a Mad Men era anymore where only women are taking care of infants,” said Maya Harris, Clinton’s senior policy adviser, about Trump’s proposal. His plan would provide paid leave only for biological mothers of children, excluding all other iterations of and roles in the American family, such as same-sex parents, adoptive parents, and, simply, fathers.

“It’s just completely unserious,” said Harris of the GOP nominee’s plan, which allegedly emerged after Trump’s daughter Ivanka pressured her father to make issues facing working mothers central to his campaign. (“Daddy, daddy, we have to do this,” Trump said of Ivanka’s influence on the issue.)

Pointed political banter aside, you might still be wondering how Clinton’s and Trump’s respective programs will really affect American families.

Caregiver connector website Care.com analyzed the impact that each candidate’s plan would have on the cost of care for two-parent households at three distinct income levels — those in poverty, those at the median income level, and those in the top 1 percent of earners — in a report titled 2016 Election: Care.com’s Child Care Policy Analysis.

The differences between the plans when it comes down to dollars and cents (and common sense) is pretty striking.

The national average yearly income for those living in poverty is $24,036; for those at the national median, $53,482; and those in the top 1 percent, $389,436. Currently, in-home childcare, such as a nanny or full-time babysitter, remains unaffordable for those living in poverty. Meanwhile, it costs an average of $28,353 for those at the median income level and in the top 1 percent. In-center care — or daycare centers or other early education facilities and preschools — costs all earning groups an average of $9,589 annually.

Under Clinton’s plan to cap childcare costs at 10 percent of a family’s household income, the price of in-center care would shrink to $2,404 for those in poverty and to $5,348 for those at the median — or a savings of $7,185 and $4,241, respectively. Median income earners also would be able to cap their costs for in-home childcare at $5,348, a savings of $23,005 annually. For those in the top 1 percent, there would be no changes in the cost of care.

Trump’s plan — utilizing a series of tax credits — would offer something completely different for most Americans. According to his proposal, in-center childcare would cost those living in poverty $8,154 (a savings of only $1,435 relative to the present average cost of care). Median earners would save $1,435 for in-home childcare and pay $26,918 for such care, compared to the current average of $28,353 and would likewise save $1,435 for in-center care, for an average estimated cost of $8,154 annually. The top 1 percent of earners, however, would save the most on childcare costs: With $3,164 saved through tax credits, the cost of in-home care would be reduced to $25,189 annually, and the cost of in-center care would be $6,425.

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In other words, who saves the most is vastly different under Clinton’s proposal versus Trump’s proposal: The top 1 percent would benefit the most under Trump but would see no change in childcare costs under Clinton; those in poverty and at the median income level would see enormous reductions in their childcare expenses under Clinton’s plan. And apples to apples, a median-income family would save $4,241 for in-center care under Clinton, but just $1,435 under Trump. And comparatively, whereas the top 1 percent of earners see no change in costs to their childcare under Clinton, they save even more than families in poverty or earning the median income level do under Trump, with the top 1 percent earning $3,164 in tax credits relative to the $1,435 received by all other income levels.

Under Trump’s plan, lower-income families earning up to $31,200 would also have access to an Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) of almost $1,200 per year per eligible family, which can be deposited in the childcare savings account proposed by Trump. The Trump plan also lets families deposit up to $2,000 a year tax-free into this Dependent Care Savings Account, which can be used for childcare, education, or enrichment activities. Care.com explains that to incentivize contributions to this program from low-income families, Trump’s proposal includes a government match of up to $500 on the first $1,000 deposited.

For a family that is only earning $24,036 annually, on average, such a deposit could be unrealistic: For families living paycheck to paycheck, the ability to put away money to be used for childcare in the future may not even be possible, with families needing their full salaries to cover expenses and bills, including the childcare costs that shrink less under Trump’s proposal versus Clinton’s.

Clinton’s plan offers the added detail of making childcare more accessible for parents who are also students, by awarding scholarships of $1,500 per year for up to 1 million student-parents and increasing access to on-campus center-based childcare, which would serve an additional 250,000 children. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, there are about 4.8 million college students currently raising children.

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