Costs of Childcare
Author: Monika J. Ulrich, University of Arizona
To help students understand the real expense of childcare and how difficult it is to successfully balance work and family, especially for low income families.
Obtain names and phone numbers of several childcare centers; obtain access to laptops; prepare handouts with local information.
This activity could also be adapted as a take-home assignment.
As a group, we make a list of all the things that families need in order for both parents to continuously remain in the workplace and raise children the way that they want. I encourage students to think about how they want to raise their own children. That list usually includes paid maternity leave for at least one year (because most students do not want to put an infant in daycare), paternity leave for at least a week, child care reimbursement from the age of 1 until the child is in school, flextime, flexplace, sick leave, health care benefits, a child care center near the workplace, a private location to pump milk at the office (because most students recognize the benefits of breast milk over formula), and enough income to meet additional expenses.
I explain to students that we are going to figure out if it is possible to raise a child the way we want in the local area.
I divide students into groups of about four students. I pass out assignments below to different groups (in larger sections, multiple groups will receive the same assignment).
I give students about 20 minutes to complete the assignment as a group. I make sure that students have cell phones available in groups that require phones. Typically, students volunteer to use their cell phones. If possible, I arrange to have extra computers with internet access available to students in Group 1 or 2 (either by asking students who have them to bring laptops or by using University resources). For Groups 3 and 4, I provide different lists of names and phone numbers of childcare centers in the area.
After students have completed the assignment, we discuss the results. For each item, we start by talking about professors. Often, groups that focus on the professors have more success. Then, we discuss the lower income family. Sometimes, students will propose that the lower income family should simply go on welfare. This is a good opportunity to talk about what welfare will and will not provide.
After we have discussed both groups, I then ask students to think about how they would meet their needs if they were disabled, supporting elderly parents, had low education or intelligence, were mentally or physically ill, recently left an abusive spouse, trying to go back to school to get more education, had more than one or two children or had a child with a special need.
Click on the document below to view the specific assignments for each group (in PDF format). Document will open in a new browser window.
Sweet, Stephen, Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes, Joshua Mumm, Judith Casey, and Christina Matz. 2006. Teaching Work and Family: Strategies, Activities, and Syllabi. Washington DC: American Sociological Association.