by Kathryn Carley, Commonwealth News Service
Massachusetts ranks first in the nation for education and children’s health but a lack of quality child care poses great challenges for families, according to a new report.
The 2023 Kids Count Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation gives the Commonwealth high marks for child well-being overall. However, it said there is not enough child care and too many families can’t afford it, which ultimately affects the state’s economy.
Adam Jones, policy analyst at the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, said a lack of child care options is negatively affecting too many couples’ family planning.
“People who may really love certain parts of the state, love certain cities, love where they even grew up are making hard choices about raising families there,” Jones observed.
The report found 12% of Massachusetts’ children under age six lived in families in which someone quit, changed, or refused a job due to problems getting child care in the past few years. It showed women are five to eight times more likely than men to experience negative employment consequences related to caregiving.
Despite Massachusetts’ high ranking in the categories of education and health care, the benefits are not experienced equally across the Commonwealth.
Jones cited Massachusetts’ historic racial wealth gap as preventing too many families from reaching their full potential.
“Yeah, we’re number one, but is everyone experiencing number one quality, in terms of affordability?” Jones asked. “Black families in Massachusetts are more likely to live in poverty than white families, so are Latinx families.”
Jones acknowledged the creation of MassHealth and the Student Opportunity Act focused on equity and made Massachusetts a national leader in education and health care.
He added now, it is time for the Commonwealth to lead by example in solving the child care crisis and continue such efforts as its Child Care Stabilization Grants, which were a lifeline to child care centers throughout the pandemic.