Opinion | Biden and the Future of the Family

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Well, at this point there don’t seem to be many normal people by Vance’s standard. Only 14 percent of children are growing up in “Leave It to Beaver” families with a working father and stay-at-home mother on their first marriage. (Only half of children were in families like that even when “Leave It to Beaver” was on TV.)

It’s true that women without a college degree are less likely than college-educated women to be employed — but that’s true for men, too, suggesting that low employment has more to do with lack of opportunities and, of course, the cost of child care than with traditional values.

Also, if Republicans were really concerned about the imposition of elite values, they’d call for giving families enough to live on without sending mothers to work. In reality, that House statement denouncing Biden’s plans specifically condemned proposed child tax credits for offering “welfare without work.”

The logic seems to be that providing child care is bad because it’s a liberal plot to force mothers to leave home and take jobs, but giving families unconditional aid is also bad because it would allow mothers to stay home rather than getting a job.

Now, there is a real question about the form aid to families should take. Why pay for child care? Why not just give families money and let them choose whether to use it for child care or to stay home?

One quick answer is that the Biden administration is already giving families financial aid not tied to day care; indeed, its plans will probably cut child poverty in half. The child care aid would be a supplement.

Another quick answer is that the market for child care arguably works as badly as the market for health care, for many of the same reasons: lack of information, lack of trust, and more. Just giving people money to buy health insurance works famously badly; just giving people money to buy child care would probably work very badly, too.

Still, we could and possibly should have a debate about whether parents who choose not to put their children in day care should receive cash instead. But that’s the way to think about it. And I guarantee you that Republicans won’t engage in that debate; they come to bury aid to families, not to improve it.

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