As Axios reported this morning, Walmart announced that their new corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, will include an onsite child care facility for employees’ children. Walmart’s announcement signals a clear recognition that child care is essential to a successful business, increasing productivity as well as competitiveness in employee recruitment and retention. As Microsoft President Brad Smith stated earlier this year, “We need to do more to help bring Americans back to work and people can only come back to work if they have a way to take care of their children.” 

Even a company as big as Walmart, however, could never afford to provide child care facilities to all 1.6 million of their employees across America, reinforcing that there is no market-based solution to this crisis, and why Congress must include significant, sustained funding for child care in the reconciliation package. Businesses can’t do this alone, and they need a strong partner in the federal government to support a strong, stable early learning and care system.

As of 2020, the average price of center-based child care for an infant in the United States is $12,300. In Arkansas, it’s $7,498, but in Massachusetts, where Walmart has close to 14,000 employees, the average annual price of care for one infant is $22,577. Meanwhile, more than half of Americans live in a child care desert — an area with more than 50 children under age 5 that contains either no child care providers or so few options that there are more than three times as many children as licensed child care slots.

As Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses Voices report noted, “The core of the challenge is the current child care business model, which is dysfunctional and broken. It really isn’t a ‘business model’ at all, insofar as that term suggests something replicable, sustainable, and profitable… It simply costs more to provide high quality child care than most parents can afford to pay.“

Investing in America’s child care system isn’t simply a good business move, it’s good politics. New bipartisan polling from First Five Action Fund (FFAF) has found that even among people who think government spending is too high, there is broad agreement that child care should be included in the economic reconciliation package under consideration, and voters across the board say lowering child care costs is a good use of taxpayer money. 

  • More than three in four voters (77%) say that child care and early learning programs are a good investment of taxpayers’ money. Even 65% of those who say federal spending is too high believe child care to be a good investment.