Sep 13, 2022Liked by Milan Singh

I have nothing to say on the substance of this issue but I really appreciate this approach in general: engaged and thoughtful, but not denigrating other ideas or pretending that there is some easy solution out there. My personal and work situation has changed dramatically and I don’t have nearly as much time to read. Today I have time for one thing and I’m glad I chose this. Thanks as always.

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I don't have a coherent grand theory here other than to say that the interest groups focused on driving up wages/credentialism in childcare are clearly in the wrong. Matt's plan to bring in immigrant workers to maintain affordability would, in fact, be a great benefit.

One rare place I generally agree with the conservatives is that if you're going to subsidize childcare the funding should be professional daycare vs stay at home parent agnostic. Substantially biasing society towards a new vast political constituency of professional care workers would be bad and create an massive spiral of cost increase.

The "crisis" here is that the opportunity cost of parenting vs going to work is greater than it's ever been and it's bad for children when having someone to care for them is a prohibitively expensive luxury good.

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I agree with Matt here but we're the weird ones.

Conservatives are not going to agree to more low-skilled immigrants coming here, and progressives aren't going to support bringing in immigrants explicitly because you can pay them less.

Both the cons and progs are wrong here, but just as the explicitly neoliberal position is almost always the correct one, it's almost always the unpopular one too.

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Matt can essentially re-use this article and just replace references to child care to ELDER care - an even larger and looming crisis that has already begun. My prediction is that even conservative Americans will come around on the strategy of mass immigration once the elder care crisis really starts to impact majority of Boomers (mid-2030's).

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One thing this has overlooked is that the overwhelming majority of the “childcare crisis” takes are emanating from and focused on the professional classes who stop after 1 kid anyway.

The highly active, cultivating, micromanaged child-rearing model most of our class peers embrace makes raising two kids completely draining and unsustainable, more emotionally and in terms of time than financially.

Middle and working class families continue to opt for a median of two children and often more, because they value children more and have more realistic (or at least less intensive/cultivating) expectations about how they will raise them. Childcare crisis be damned, lol.

I really don’t think much of anything will move the needle because childcare isn’t the driver, culture is.

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“ most people would consider that a bad outcome.”

Which is different than it being a bad outcome. The other day someone was outraged that parents would be out having dinner and give the kid an iPad so they could have a moments peace vs. “engaging” with the child. It sure seems like dramatically increased parenting demands are causing a decline in fertility. One manifestation of that is higher child care standards making child care more expensive.

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Totally agree (for self-interested reasons). My family just moved to Boston and the shortages of the key goods (housing, childcare) that Matt mentioned is obvious (~2x the cost for both from low-cost NJ). One thought as to how to facilitate more immigration for childcare: why not expand the existing au pair visa program and allow entrants to work at childcare centers instead of having host families as well as changing the pay structure a bit (currently room-and-board plus relatively low wages)? Currently, the visas are limited to a select list of countries but expanding that would obviously increase supply.

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Sep 13, 2022·edited Sep 13, 2022

I'm broadly pro-immigration, but I'm not really clear why the immigrant in question here would do the childcare job for $11 an hour when they could go work at the gas station for more than twice that. What am I missing? Are these visas going to be job-specific? That's inching a bit closer to indentured servitude than I'm comfortable with.

Also, Matt's handwaving about 'well the job pays twice as much as the per capita income in Grenada' ignores that living in the US is at least twice as expensive as that country too, so it kind of washes out.

Let's just do lots of high-skilled immigration, and accept that the low-skilled stuff is politically toxic and so best avoided. (Isn't that what popularism is all about?) On a personal level I'm about a half step away from open borders, but I realize that this is just extremely unpopular & deeply unrealistic. I think letting in all of the world's PhDs and STEM Master's is a way, way bigger priority, and would probably engender less opposition

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I suppose that, in an effort to strongly agree with Matt's take here, this is an opportunity to share one of my most radical opinions, one that I may not have the time or vigor to defend extensively today due to being tired from a lot of ongoing travel, thus I might do more listening and learning to any disagreements I might get than replying.

I have yet to find a compelling reason that I find acceptable as to why anyone should not be able to live, work, or travel in any place of the world they want. And if they are paying taxes from the labor and consumption they are creating where they are, they should also be able to utilize the social services there, of which their costs are often offset by those taxes. Citizenship is a much more difficult question, and on that I am quite open to ideas for extensive rules as to who should be allowed to participate in the political process of a given society. But on those other questions, I don't find my belief anywhere near that difficult, even while ceding that it is likely hideously unpopular.

So to conclude on topic, bring on the immigrant child workers!

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I’ve recently come around to the idea of a year-long maternity leave for all. The real pressure point in childcare staffing is in the infant rooms, because of the required staffing ratios for infants. Also, I believe, but could be wrong, that most parents would rather stay home with their 3-month olds than send them off to daycare. When they get older it’s different. They’re less delicate and parents at that point ready to move on with their working lives.

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When I was a kid, my friend down the street had a nanny. I think she was from Senegal, but I can't remember...it was definitely a West African country. She was very kind and warm and I liked her a lot.

She had a daughter that was a couple years older than me and my friend. Occasionally on days when school was out but it wasn't a federal holiday, she would bring her daughter and son along due to lack of other childcare options, and my friends parents were OK with that. First off all, it was a little confusing for me...who takes care of her daughter while she is taking care of my friend? Why does my friend get to have her time and not her own kids? How did her daughter not hate my friend's guts for having so much time with her mom?

Then one time, all of us kids were talking about punishment (we were raised by professional class people in NW DC in the '90s, so time outs were popular and corporal punishment was seen as abusive among our parents... my parents were liberal democrats and her parents were ex-millitary conservative leaning folks...so across the political spectrum this was the norm). Her daughter informed me that her mom when she misbehaved would whip her with a belt--something her mom was never allowed to do with my friend and her brothers. It was incredibly confusing to me that such a loving, warm woman was the type of person who would beat her children. Corporal punishment (and not just spanking, but whipping with a belt) is much more common in many West African cultures than it is in the US, and especially so in the '90s.

It really gave me a crash course on how complicated the world is. How unfair it is, how my parents moral norms of acceptable behavior are not universal, etc. And this was all when I was 6-7 years old.

I think I turned out ok and ended up being a more tolerant open minded person for it, but there are some parents who want to shield their kids from that particular brand of injustice just a little longer than that.

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Very surprised surprised Matt didn't mention regulation here. Obviously there are reasonable limits on child ratios, but states like Massachusetts that go beyond that have a very direct effect on costs.

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It's not just childcare but elder home care as well. this helps older seniors stay in their home/appartment rather than going into assisted living.

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My in-home daycare provider immigrated to the US decades ago, though I have never asked her from where. Doing some napkin math, she pulls in around $8,000 per month and could pull in more if she wanted to hit the max ratio. I know that that’s not accounting for taxes and expenses, but her husband is a CPA so I assume she maximizes her situation.

Her house is nicer than mine and in a nicer neighborhood. She also is taking 4 weeks off for the birth of her first grandchild over the winter holidays, which she can easily do without jeopardizing her situation because she actually slightly undercharges in the current market and is otherwise extremely reliable.

Looking at my state’s requirements for in-home daycare, it actually doesn’t look terribly onerous. There appear to be no minimum square footage requirements and the time spent training and licensing sounds manageable.

I also think having a single caregiver has great benefits for my daughter as opposed to a revolving door of people working at a childcare center, but that feels more like personal preference.

This is all to say that I very much so agree with Matt on this one.

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Making good childcare available to all should be considered together with universal pre-K. Many European countries seem to be able to do this, albeit under tax regimes far different than our own.

I don’t see how we can achieve this without immigrant help absent an increase in job market participation. Achieving the latter is a complex matter that I am not an expert in but I do feel that we can get more out of our existing domestic working age population (and by increasing the upper limits on that age by voluntary incentives).

Matt’s thoughts about immigrants and childcare prompt me to raise an even larger (and growing) issue -- the crisis in home healthcare (and in senior care facilities). Like childcare, these are not easy jobs yet are woefully underpaid. As boomers need more and more care, the crisis is going to become a major point of conflict that transcends ideological, age and income lines. Younger age cohorts will rightfully balk at shouldering the fantastic expense of providing care to the bulging boomer age bracket. Combining the childcare needs and senior care needs may yield a more persuasive argument for increasing immigration (along with the dearth of laborers for home construction, a significant factor in the rise in construction costs).

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I don't really understand how immigration is going to fix the child care problem as (correctly) described here. After all, immigrants could work at a gas station too. So to really help, there would need to either be so many immigrants that we have a slack labor market (which is fundamentally a failure in a different way) or some restrictions that prevent the immigrants from leaving the child care profession, which has all kinds of other problems.

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