College Degrees for Child Care?

According to the Washington Post, DC is now requiring child care workers to have a college degree:

More than a decade after Washington, D.C., set out to create the most comprehensive public preschool system in the country, the city is directing its attention to overhauling the patchwork of programs that serve infants and toddlers.

The new regulations put the District at the forefront of a national effort to improve the quality of care and education for the youngest learners. City officials want to address an academic achievement gap between children from poor and middle-class families that research shows is already evident by the age of 18 months.

On Twitter, many prominent pundits panned the development, arguing that we shouldn’t make child care even more expensive than it already is. According to the plan’s critics, increasing the educational requirements for being a child carer will likely increase the labor costs associated with hiring child care workers, which will make child care out of reach for more families.

I don’t have a strong opinion on the question of whether child care workers should generally be more educated than they currently are. I know some countries (including Finland) do have various degree requirements for some child care workers. But I couldn’t say how necessary they are for things like child development and high-quality care.

However, even if you think child care workers shouldn’t be required to have a college degree, this particular argument offered by the Twitter critics is one that should be avoided.

Child care workers currently make some of the lowest wages in the country, $9.77 per hour and $20,320 per year at the median, according to the BLS. This level of compensation is unacceptably low and should be higher. After all, even moderate liberals support increasing the minimum wage to $12 per hour, implying a 23% increase in the median wages of child care workers.

To the extent that labor costs for child care make it hard for many families to afford child care, the appropriate response to that is child care subsidies. The labor costs of hiring teachers for K-12 would be intolerably high for many families to afford out of pocket. But we don’t respond to that by saying teachers should be hired without degrees and at very low wages. We respond to that by subsidizing the cost of K-12 education (to $0) so that families can afford it.

Because many families are headed by low-wage workers, you will never make child care affordable by holding down the wages of child care workers. No matter how low you hold them (assuming they are paid at least the minimum wage), there will always be a rather large swath of low-wage families who will not make enough to pay for child care out of their current income.

The question of appropriate credentials and training should be mostly separated from the question of individual affordability. If higher levels of credentials and training can be shown to improve quality substantially (whatever that might mean), then they should be imposed, and any increase in labor costs caused by that imposition should be absorbed through public subsidy.

Are Boomers Really Doing Well?

I was inspired by this piece in the Boston Globe about how the Boomers have ruined everything to go into the Survey of Consumer Finances and see just how well the Boomers are actually doing, at least as far as wealth goes. The answer, as with all things, is that it depends on what class of Boomer you are talking about. Rich boomers are doing well. Poor boomers are not.

For these figures, I used the 2013 Survey of Consumer Finances and isolated households whose head was between the ages of 49 and 67 in 2013 (meaning they were born between 1946 and 1964). The dollar figures are all in 2013 dollars.

Here is net worth (assets minus liabilities, not counting vehicles) for various percentiles of the Boomer distribution.

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The bottom 10 percent of Boomers have less than nothing, i.e. they have more debt than they have assets. Those near the bottom 10 percent are also not doing particularly well, as the 20th percentile has less than $1,500 of wealth stored up.

When you get to the median, which is typically the only figure you get from most wealth analyses, it starts to look somewhat respectable at $131,000. Though even that might not seem that respectable when you understand that these folks are nearing retirement and $130,000 is probably not going to cut it.
The top of the Boomers are of course doing amazingly, with the 95th percentile Boomer sitting on $2.7 million.

Here is the same table, but this time with home equity stripped out of the equation. So it’s all of the non-home wealth of the Boomer population broken down by percentile:

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When you take the home equity out, it turns out the bottom 20 percent has nothing. The median falls down to $52,000. But the top of the Boomer hump is still coming in at over $2 million.

I offer this calculation with the home equity taken out, not to suggest it is a better indication of Boomer wealth. It’s not. But if the dream of getting old and retiring is that you stay in your home and live off your pension and savings, then it is useful to take the homes out to see what is actually left over. And it’s really not a whole lot, for most Boomers.

Despite popular misconceptions to the contrary, it seems to me that the Boomers are not the problem. The rich are.

How certain liberals permanently erase the working class


This tweet from Doctor Vox wonderfully underscores a point I’ve been making for years now: liberal discourse politics ensures a permanent erasure of the lower classes. This is so for two reasons:

  1. Lower class people, almost by definition, cannot engage in The Discourse. They do not have the education, credentials, or jobs necessary to do so.
  2. Upper class people (broadly construed) can engage in The Discourse, but if they do so as a partisan or advocate of the lower classes, they are dismissed because they are not themselves lower class. This move is the one Doctor Vox goes for in his tweet.

Together, (1) and (2) completely suffocate class-driven intrusions into The Discourse. The liberal identitarians apply their discourse politics so as to say only working class voices can speak on the working class, but it’s impossible for the working class to do so given the way media and academia work.

When I make this point, some take it to mean that we need to find ways to get more working class voices in media, i.e. find some way to break down point (1). If you could do that, it would be interesting and perhaps enlightening in some way. But there is a deeper problem that even that wouldn’t solve. The problem is that, no matter how you really do it, identity avatars that engage in The Discourse are necessarily very unlike the identities they are supposed to be representing.

A working class person that would spend their leisure time interjecting in The Discourse would be much different from your average working class person. This is vacuously true as the average working class person does not interject in The Discourse. But it is also non-vacuously true because the kind of working class person who decides to engage in the discourse also likely reads more news, is more interested in politics, and has more developed political thoughts than the average working class person.

Discourse participants are not selected by random drawings. Rather they self-select. And that self-selection destroys any chance that they could be representative.

This is true across the board. Your average woman political pundit is very unlike the average woman. She’s richer than your average woman; she’s much more educated than your average woman; she consumes very different culture and media than your average woman; and she has much more developed and committed political views than your average woman. The same is true of your average black pundit, your average gay pundit, your average Muslim pundit, and so on.

The gap between the average pundit and average person they are often said to represent is strained even further by the fact that publications often hire pundits on the basis of their politics, meaning that the only people who get through the hiring filter and into a pundit job are those who share whatever the editorial views of a publication happens to be.

Hyper-educated people claiming to be in touch with working class people is no more absurd than hyper-educated women pundits claiming to be in touch with American women at large, or hyper-educated black pundits claiming to be in touch with American blacks at large. But liberals indulge the latter fantasies and even get aggressively mad at those who don’t indulge them.

In reality, the way any pundit acquires a good insight into any particular group of people is through rigorous study and analysis of that group. Perhaps pundits could opine incisively about pundits themselves and their various internal cleavages without much study. But beyond that, they get insight into groups of people through the same methods that they would get insight into the working class, methods that Doctor Vox and many liberals seem to reject as silly when it’s convenient to do so.