- Spending $775 billion on care could create millions of jobs, per a study from UMass’ Political Economy Research Institute.
- Across 18 states, it could result in 5.3 million new jobs, the study by Lenore Palladino found.
- Biden is proposing $400 billion for home and community care and $25 billion for upgrading childcare.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Spending $775 billion on three different forms of care infrastructure – childcare, home healthcare, and residential care – could create 5.3 million jobs in 18 states over 10 years, a new study found.
The research, from Lenore Palladino at the Political Economy Research Institute at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, models a $775 billion investment in care infrastructure, something that President Joe Biden campaigned on. Currently, the American Jobs Plan, the first part of Biden’s two-pronged infrastructure package, contains $400 billion for home and community care for the elderly and disabled, along with $25 billion for upgrading childcare facilities and making them more accessible.
“As the mother of a son who experiences severe disabilities, I really know firsthand the difference these services can make, and I’m going to work with the administration and members of Congress on the details for significant investments in home and community-based care,” Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) said in a press conference about the study.
In the 18 states studied, labor force participation by women fell by 3.2% from 2019 to 2020. According to the study, there are 1.7 million care workers in those states, and 87% are female. They are disproportionately women of color.
The study also notes that “median hourly wages are extremely low” for those working as nursing assistants, home healthcare or personal care aides, as well as those working in childcare, coming in at an average of $13.09 an hour.
“Wages are extremely low for the care workforce, based in the structural racism and sexism that has consigned care work as ‘women’s work,’ and disproportionately work by women of color that is not seen as economically valuable,” Palladino writes.
Tina Tchen, the president and CEO of TIME’S UP Foundation, said in the press conference that low wages in the industry are “a legacy that goes all the way back to slavery in our country, right, where caregiving, this kind of work was not compensated for.” That marginalization continued, Tchen said, as caregivers were left out of labor protections in the New Deal; wages still remain low today.
“Advocates have been calling for, in some cases, $15 an hour,” Palladino said. “I think that the concept of a family supporting wage is an incredibly important concept because we know that so many people in the care workforce are supporting their families.”
The next part of the infrastructure package, the American Family Plan, is expected to be announced in the coming weeks. That plan will also invest highly in childcare and education. However, Rep. Katie Porter has called it a mistake to split up the two packages. Politico reported that some childcare advocates were disappointed to see that some measures – like raising wages and benefits – weren’t bundled together. Goldman Sachs projects the likeliest scenario is a single bill worth about $3.3 trillion.
On the whole, while there’s been some recovery, women workers have been hit hard during the pandemic. And, following the K-shape of the recovery, low-wage female workers have faced down income losses while risking their lives to work in person.
“You can’t go to work if you don’t have a road to get there. You can’t go to work if you don’t have a safe place for your kid Right. These are like synonymous things,” Jasmine Tucker, the National Women’s Law Center’s director of research, previously told Insider. “Childcare is infrastructure and we need to treat it that way.”