Chatham News

New Research by Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics Highlights Gaps in Childcare Access and Policy

PITTSBURGH:  The Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics (PCWP) is releasing preliminary findings from a statewide research project (including a survey of Pennsylvania voters) that details inadequacies in childcare policy in the state and voter attitudes toward state policies.

PCWP Assistant Director, Dr. Jennie Sweet-Cushman, will present the preliminary results of the research report and the survey of Pennsylvania voters at Chatham University’s launch of its new Women’s Institute on Saturday, November 7, 2015. The full report, Is This the Care We Need?: An Examination of Childcare Policy in Pennsylvania, will be released in early 2016.

“New parents often lament the looming burden of paying for a child’s college, but the reality is that burden starts much earlier than post-high school. In Pennsylvania, and across the nation, frequently childcare costs more than college tuition,” states Dr. Sweet-Cushman. “ In fact, a recent report by the Economic Policy Institute revealed that childcare costs are likely to exceed the cost of rent for many families, and virtually nowhere in the country is care available near the 10 percent of budget threshold recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Some are even starting to suggest that the high cost of childcare may be a significant factor in the declining numbers of women in the workforce.”

As part of the research study, the Pennsylvania Center for Women & Politics conducted a survey of registered voters Pennsylvania voters that sheds light on a potential disconnect between existing policy on this issue and how voters believe childcare should be provided. Almost 89 percent of those surveyed believed childcare should cost families less than 30 percent of their income, with more than 48 percent believing it should be even more affordable or less than 15 percent. In actuality, the average dual-income family in Pennsylvania pays approximately 12 percent of their income to childcare. However, for the more than one quarter (28 percent) of working mothers who are single mothers, that percentage in Pennsylvania is a whopping 44 percent of their income. Nearly all of our survey respondents would view this as an excessive burden.

“Pennsylvanians across the board do not believe that childcare should be the burden to a family’s budget that it so often is, and we need to consider how we can address this from a public policy standpoint,” Sweet-Cushman said.

The report also describes the need for quality care that meets the needs of their children, accommodates work schedules, and is safe and reasonably priced, but discusses how finding care that meets these criteria can be difficult and can be a significant burden on a family. Parents face issues involving quality, accessibility, availability, and non-traditional schedules when selecting care.

Quality childcare has been linked to school readiness, physical well-being, motor development, social and emotional development, and cognitive and language development. But many programs have limited funding and lengthy waitlists. In February 2014, more than 2600 children were on the wait list for childcare assistance in Pennsylvania. One study found that 86 percent of centers in the state provided mediocre or poor-quality services, while only 14 percent of centers met levels of process quality high enough to support the emotional development of children.

About the Pennsylvania Center for Women & Politics
The Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics (PCWP) is a non–partisan center devoted to fostering women’s public leadership through education, empowerment, and action. As part of this commitment, the Center releases annual reports on women’s policy issues in the state. For more information about the PCWP at Chatham University or ongoing policy research, please contact Dr. Jennie Sweet-Cushman, Assistant Director at 412-365-1878 or

About the Chatham University Women’s Institute
Launched in 2015, the Women’s Institute continues Chatham University’s 145-year commitment to advancing the causes of women and gender equity. Serving as an umbrella to draw together the university’s broad range of gender initiatives as well as its centers of excellence – the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship and the PA Center for Women and Politics – the Women’s Institute works across campus and into the broader community, with the goal of eradicating social inequalities through education, research and outreach.