Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren's plan for universal child care would make day care and preschool free for many low-income families and cut costs for others.

By Libby Ryan
elizabeth warren
Credit: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

May 31, 2019

Affordable childcare is set to be a major issue for the 2020 presidential race and is already a platform item separating those vying for the Democratic nomination. Take Elizabeth Warren. The Senator from Massachusetts and presidential hopeful made a helpful tool for families (or those thinking of starting a family in the future) to understand exactly how her childcare plan would help their wallets.

Warren’s plan ensures that childcare would be free for families making less than twice the federal poverty line. And for families who earn more, the cost of child care would be capped at 7 percent of their income.

You can put in your personal numbers in the calculator on Warren’s website to see exactly how much money you’d save per year.

Child care costs are out of control. According to’s annual cost survey, in 2018, 71 percent of families used 10 percent of their income on child care and one in three families paid 20 percent of their annual income. In 28 out of 50 states, child care is more expensive than in-state college tuition.

“I remember how hard it was to find affordable and high-quality child care when I was a working mom with two little ones,” Warren wrote in a Medium post published this week. “We must do better for our kids—and our parents. In the wealthiest country on the planet, access to affordable and high-quality child care and early education should be a right, not a privilege reserved for the rich.”

Warren’s childcare plan would use federal funds to support local child centers, in-home centers, and preschools to provide accredited care for all kids. She proposes financing these childcare cost changes by taxing households in the U.S. who have a net worth of more than $50 million.

The exorbitant cost of child care is one of the few issues that republicans and democrats agree is a problem, although they disagree on the causes and solutions. In February, President Donald Trump, the assumed Republican nominee for 2020, released a memo detailing his plan for reducing child care costs. The memo suggests that regulation on child care (such as class size and teacher training) drives up the cost of care and that fewer regulations would reduce costs.

Trump’s proposed 2020 budget included an additional $1 billion for child care infrastructure while reducing regulations on child care centers. In 2018, the Trump administration increased funding for low-income family child care by $2.4 billion.

The government works with an annual budget of more than $4 trillion. Less than 10 percent of that budget went to kids in 2017. And by 2020, under current policies, the government will spend more money on interest payments on the national debt than on programs for children.

But it’s looking like that could change. It seems that child care is (finally) poised to be a major issue going into our next presidential election, with other candidates for the democratic nominations including Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Beto O’Rourke, and Amy Klobuchar also supporting universal child care and others supporting more tax breaks for families.