There is a significant gap between the income earned by minimum-wage working parents and the real costs it takes to support a family, finds a new report from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.
The gap increases significantly considering the expense of child care, which can account for as much as 98 percent of household income for a family with two working parents and two children.
The report, “Make Work Work: Strengthening Missouri through Quality Child Care for Working Families,” is the first released by the Brown School’s Clark-Fox Policy Institute.
“Missouri is home to many hard-working families who are struggling to make ends meet,” said Gary Parker, director of the institute. “They take pride in working and in raising their children. Unfortunately, low wages and limited access to quality child care puts an incredible strain on families across the state.”
The report examines the impact the lack of access to affordable, quality child care has on working families, the state’s economy and child well-being. For instance, the report shows, parents making the state average minimum-wage income would bring home $32,656 — but the average cost of living for a two-parent, two-child family in one of Missouri’s least expensive counties (St. Francois) is $62,262. No wonder roughly one-in-five Missouri children under the age of 18 lives in poverty.
In light of the substantial economic challenges and significant barriers that low-wage working families face trying to support their families, “Make Work Work” proposes three evidence-based policy recommendations that can advance change:
- Increase the minimum wage to a family-sustaining wage.
- Modify child care subsidies to ensure that parents can make a family-sustaining wage and still access quality child care.
- Develop a system for measuring child care quality and provide supports for child care providers to improve services.
“Child care subsidies play a key role in bridging this gap and in helping families, especially mothers, participate in the workforce,” Parker said. “Unfortunately, the income limits on eligibility are far too low for financially struggling families to qualify. This results in structural barriers that hold families back from economic stability, disproportionately impacting single parents and families of color.”
Read the report for the full set of recommendations for helping Missouri’s working families.