KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – When Tennessee’s working families cannot access the child care services they need, there are significant economic consequences for parents, employers and taxpayers. From Memphis to Mountain City, Tennessee parents of young children say inadequate child care hurts their earnings and productivity at work and their career opportunities. At the same time, Tennessee employers speak of a tight labor market with recruitment and productivity challenges that will only worsen as the state’s child care system crisis continues.
A new report issued today by Tennesseans for Quality Early Education (TQEE) and statewide business partners, “Want to Grow Tennessee’s Economy? Fix the Child Care Crisis,” delivers unprecedented insight on the adverse economic impacts of the state’s child care system dysfunction. The consequences: $1.34 billion annually in lost earnings and revenue.
“This report shines a bright light on one of the biggest challenges facing Tennessee working families, businesses and our economy,” said Blair Taylor, President of Memphis Tomorrow and Chair of TQEE. “The evidence is clear, and the stakes are high. Tennessee’s child care system doesn’t meet the needs of working families with young children. Our intention is for this report to serve as a call to action for collaborative problem-solving by state government and the private sector. Let’s mobilize Tennessee’s business ingenuity and creative public policy to crack the code for great child care.”
Tennessee parents who encounter child care problems are hit hard – losing an estimated $850 million in earnings each year. An overwhelming 98 percent of Tennessee parents of children age 4 or younger said that inadequate child care services hurt their work productivity or limited career opportunities. Specifically: 39 percent turned down a new job offer or promotion, 35 percent had pay or hours reduced or changed employment status to part time, 33 percent turned down education or training, and 32 percent had to quit a job, or were fired or demoted.
Access, affordability and quality are the primary factors that drag down the system. Two-thirds of parents said they have trouble accessing care at all, exacerbated by the fact that 48 percent of Tennesseans live in a child care “desert” – an area that has three times as many children as licensed child care spots. Two-thirds of parents say affordability of care is a big challenge. The cost of two children in center-based care is nearly $16,000 annually – 21 percent of median income of a Tennessee married family and 60.4 percent of families living in poverty. Another 50 percent cite finding suitable quality as an issue.
The foundation of the report is a survey of 2,330 Tennessee parents of children under age 5 by Zogby Analytics, June 8-July 9, 2019. (The large sampling matches Tennessee demographics and has a margin of error of +/- 2 percent.)
TQEE additionally produced six companion regional reports that feature data specific to Memphis, Southwest Rural TN, Nashville, Chattanooga, Knoxville and Tri-Cities.
“In order to successfully fulfill our mission of driving regional economic prosperity, we have to be diligent in our workforce development efforts,” said Knoxville Chamber of Commerce CEO Mike Odom. “A significant aspect of that is high-quality, affordable child care to support today’s working parents. As such, we are proud to partner with some of our Knoxville-area businesses on this report and begin collaborating on solutions to address the challenges that our region’s parents face in finding child care that is affordable (71%), high quality (61%) and accessible (73%).”
The report series is available at tqee.org/child-care-crisis.
Report partners reflect a statewide concern among Tennessee business organizations to address the inadequate child care system. They are Ayers Foundation, Ballad Health, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee, Bristol Chamber of Commerce, Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, Decatur County Chamber of Commerce, East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, First Tennessee Bank, Frist Foundation, Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce, Hyde Family Foundation, Johnson City Chamber of Commerce, Kingsport Chamber of Commerce, Knoxville Chamber of Commerce, Memphis Tomorrow, Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, Perry County Chamber of Commerce, PNC Financial Services, Suntrust Bank, Tennessee Business Roundtable, Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and The Urban Child Institute.