UMass Boston

UMass Boston Research Team to Estimate Cost of Providing Quality Early Care and Education for Children in MA

03/08/2022| UMass Boston

Program will estimate costs needed for Common Start legislation (H. 605 / S. 362)

Early educations providers interact with children

A UMass Boston-based interdisciplinary team of researchers has launched a new research project that will build a cost simulator to inform policy recommendations around universal child care. The simulator will model the amount of funding required by the Common Start legislation to provide affordable, high-quality early care and education for families in Massachusetts.

The team has expertise in economics, early education, and public policy and will include researchers from the Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation at UMass Boston, the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at UMass Boston, and the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University. The project is being funded by the Commonwealth Children’s Fund, which invests in public policy and other initiatives that support children in Massachusetts from birth to age five.

The Common Start legislation would create a system of affordable, high-quality early education and childcare for all Massachusetts families. The system would expand early education and care for children from birth through age 5, as well as after- and out-of-school time for children ages 5-12, and for children with special needs through age 15. The bill provides a framework to increase the scope of public investment in early education and childcare over five years that prioritizes the lowest-income, highest-need families and assures that no family pays more than seven percent of their income.

“Currently, most families in the Commonwealth bear all the costs of child care. As a result, many families patch together what they can, creating a very unequal system of early education and care. Yet, every child matters and we know the individual and societal benefits of high quality early education and care,” said Randy Albelda, PhD, professor emerita of economics and senior research fellow in the Center for Social Policy at UMass Boston. “The Common Start legislation directly addresses this by lifting much of the financial burden from families. Our simulator will estimate how many and which families will access child care and how the costs are distributed.”

“Estimating the costs and benefits of high quality child care in Massachusetts is complicated and there are many variables to consider,” said Lydia Magliozzi Icke, a partner at the Commonwealth Children’s Fund. “In order to make the best decisions, we need information and data and the Commonwealth Children’s Fund is pleased to support this important research project.”

“Our research will estimate the potential costs of providing quality early education and care and the potential changes in demand for early care and education under the provisions of the legislation,” said Anne Douglass, PhD, professor of early care and education and the founding executive director of the Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation at UMass Boston. “There are many factors to consider to ensure equitable access to quality early education and care and to ensure that early educator wages are commensurate with their skills, expertise, and societal contributions.”

“The model we build will account for current costs that will be redistributed from parents to public funding as well as the new costs that will be incurred by expanding the use of licensed early care and education programs and increasing the salaries of early educators and childcare providers,” said Christa Kelleher, PhD, research and policy director at the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy. “It will also estimate increased labor force participation as a result of the legislation and the resulting increased income tax revenue to the state.”

“The data that will be generated by the simulator project is extraordinarily important in supporting the creation of a more equitable and culturally responsive early care and education system that will prioritize the needs of low-income and families of color, who have been drastically disadvantaged in their efforts to secure high-quality and consistent child care options,” said Laurie Nsiah-Jefferson, PhD, director of the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at UMass Boston.

Inputs to the cost simulator program will include:

  • Current supply of early care and education in Massachusetts
  • Estimated cost of quality care, which includes higher salaries and comprehensive benefits for early educators and child care providers, support for attaining higher degrees or credentials and expanded professional development opportunities
  • Current expenses for early education and childcare paid by families according to family income, family structure, race, ethnicity, type of care, and geographic region
  • Estimated changes to labor supply when the new system of public investment is implemented

The final cost simulator will provide the following information to policymakers:

  • An estimate of the costs of care under the bill, including a shift in the type of care families currently use as well as an anticipated increase in use of early care and education programs, and a comparison of those costs with current costs of care
  • A distributional analysis of early care and education costs borne by families, and potential new family earnings due to increases in labor supply
  • An estimate of increased income taxes
  • Changes in estimated costs of the legislation based on policy recommendations

A report on key findings from the cost simulator will be disseminated during the fall of 2022. The Common Start legislation is currently under consideration by the Joint Committee on Education.

The research team includes economists Randy Albelda, PhD, and Alan Clayton-Matthews, PhD, early childhood education policy experts Anne Douglass, PhD, and Songtian (Tim) Zeng, PhD, and social policy experts Christa Kelleher, PhD, and Laurie Nsiah-Jefferson, PhD.

About the Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation
The Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation equips early educators to lead and innovate for change and quality improvement in their practice, program, and in the field. It drives systems change by providing entrepreneurial leadership training to racially and linguistically diverse early educators, curating a leadership and innovation network, contributing new knowledge about the impact of early education leadership and its potential as a powerful lever for social change through original research, and building the ecosystems required to sustain this work by partnering with governmental, philanthropic, and community-based organizations. The Early Ed Leadership Institute is a university-wide initiative housed in the College of Education and Human Development at UMass Boston. Founded in 2016, the Early Ed Leadership Institute was inspired by and created in response to the demand from graduates of its first entrepreneurial leadership development programs piloted in 2012.

About the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy
The Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at the McCormack Graduate School works to advance women’s public leadership and the public policies that make a difference in the lives of women, particularly low-income women and women of color. Through its award-winning graduate certificate program, policy-relevant research, and public forums, it works to ensure that the voices, expertise, and experiences of women are valued and included in civic discourse and the policymaking process. Utilizing both an antiracist and intersectional approach, addressing ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, immigrant status, and other identities, the center works across sectors, including health, education, and employment, among others, to increase access and opportunity for women and families and inform policy analysis to ensure economic, social, and political equity and justice for all.

About the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University
The School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs is nationally and internationally recognized for excellence and innovation in policy-oriented education, applied research, and engagement. Our mission is to educate professional master’s and doctoral students who are sought after as policy analysts, program evaluators, and leaders of nonprofit, public, private sector, and academic institutions; to create and disseminate policy-relevant knowledge and analytical methods of value to policymakers and the public; and to serve the broader community through policy analysis and technical assistance.