Comprehensive child care and early learning policy is a “win for all” policy: a pathway to progress on gender, racial, and income equality; healthy child development and family well-being; improved educational outcomes; and economic growth and prosperity. President Biden’s Build Back Better plan, reflected in the Congressional budget, is essential to building a strong child care and early learning system that can achieve these goals.

The pandemic laid bare and exacerbated the deep inequities of a child care system that relies on families paying unaffordable sums, early educators being paid poverty-level wages, and too many communities across the country lacking sufficient workforce or facilities to meet child care demands. It is time to put a stake in the ground and build a comprehensive child care and early education system that works for our nation’s children, families, educators, and economy.

All in all, a ten-year federal investment of $450 billion would serve 8.27 million young children a year across the United States (when fully implemented) through both child care assistance and preschool. That’s eleven times more than those served without expansion. The table below includes one-year, point-in-time estimates for how many infants, toddlers, and preschoolers would be served by the combination of child care assistance and preschool programs when fully implemented in each state, with the total number compared to the number of children who would receive child care assistance through the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) without this expansion.

Map 1. Estimated Number of Young Children Served by a Proposed Federal Investment of $450 Billion in High-Quality Child Care and Preschool, by State, Full Implementation 1

The cost of quality is based on the model developed by the Center for American Progress and assumes all quality enhancements are made. This includes fewer children per teacher, increasing resources for professional development and classroom materials, and other child development supports. For more information, “Methodology for ‘The True Cost of High-Quality Child Care Across the United States” from the Center for American Progress.

This commentary was written in collaboration with the National Women’s Law Center and the Center for Law and Social Policy and has been cross-posted on their websites.


  1. Notes: The estimated number of children served presented in this map are one-year estimates for the number of children served at the end of the ten-year period, in 2030, following a gradual phase-in over that time. These estimates assume a 70 percent take-up rate at the end of the ten-year period. The estimates of children served only include children newly served by the proposed investment; the estimates do not include children already served by CCDBG, Early Head Start, Head Start, and/or State Pre-K. Finally, the estimates presented in this table represent the total number of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers that would be impacted by the proposed investment, regardless of the share of a full-time slot that their families would need. It also assumes a state match of 90:10 for infants and toddlers and 83:17 for preschoolers.