Strong Families Will Reduce Crime, Not More Government Spending on Child Care

When I first heard this story on PBS, something definitely didn’t smell right (in fact, it smelled very left-leaning). The headline of the story states, “One in Five Women Are Deciding Against or Delaying Having a Child Because of the High Cost of Child Care and Preschool.” The sub-heading then states, “Anti-Crime Group Says Greater Federal Investment in Child Care, Head Start Needed.” (source) The inference in this article is that high costs prevent parents from putting their kids in early child care and those kids without Preschool are more likely to grow up and get in trouble with the law. Says Miami Police Chief John Timoney, “when working families can’t afford good child care and preschool, all too often we in law enforcement end up dealing with their kids when they grow up.” This group’s solution: more government spending.

Sorry, but I don’t buy it. The problem is that this article attempts to link two things that are unrelated.
1. Women delay having children because of the high cost of child care/preschool
2. Children without good child care/preschool are at a higher risk of committing crimes
Both these statements might be individually accurate, and on the surface, they might seem linked, but allow me to explain why they are not related. The women who delay having children because of the high cost of child care are not the women whose kids are at risk of having trouble with the law when they grow up. In fact, studies show that the longer women delay having children, the less likely those children are to get into trouble with the law (see Freakonomics by Steven Levitt). This is because the women who delay having children for these financial reasons are generally they type of parents who care about providing a good education and wait until they feel they can provide that.

The research above was conducted by “Fight Crime: Invest in Kids”, which, as far as I can tell from perusing their website, is an organization that believes strongly in liberal, big government policies. In the article, this group calls on congress to provide $1.5 billion (that’s 10 digits, $1,500,000,000) in additional new funding for Head Start and other government sponsored child care programs. This is on top of the $5.8 billion federal budget Head Start already has. Another article on their site demands all presidential candidates “commit to $10 billion in new spending on quality early care and education for children from birth to age 5.”

Nowhere I read does this organization mention the importance of parents or strengthening families. Yet, investing in families would be the proper focus if they were really concerned about reducing crime and not just advancing their liberal, big government agenda. According to the White House “research has shown that youth are less likely to engage in risky behaviors (i.e. illegal drug use, violence, and early sexual activity) when they are connected to parents, family, school, community, and places of worship.” (source = White House Fact Sheet)

Familyfacts.org contributor Patrick Fagan has also done some research to show a direct correlation between strong families and lower likelihood of teen crime.

And here are some more facts from familyfacts.org:

  • Adolescents whose parents are involved in their children’s lives tend to exhibit fewer behavioral problems.
  • Youths who communicate, do activities and have close relationships with their parents are less likely to engage in violence.
  • Teens who frequently have dinner with their families are at a lower risk for substance use.
  • Bottom line: Strengthening families will do more to reduce crime than any government child care spending program.

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