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ECE Meets Economics

by Gwen Morgan and Suzanne Helburn
May/June 2006
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Article Link: http://www.childcareexchange.com/article/ece-meets-economics/5016910/

Those of us identified with high quality child care, early education, and family support (ECE) are experiencing new trends in our field that are interacting with old problems. We want to define our roles in the emerging system and influence policies that will affect us. Recently, economists have begun to recognize our importance, not just our benefits for poor children, but also our benefits to businesses, the economy, and society. This article will summarize our old problems and new trends, as we see them, and discuss how economists can help us develop a more effective ECE system in our states and communities.

Our old and continuing problems

The Trilemma. The budget trilemma of quality, compensation, and affordability continues to afflict the field. The trilemma has to be understood as a system of interrelated problems. Otherwise, improving one of the three occurs at the expense of one of the others. Measures to increase quality reduce affordability and affect compensation.

Only a few providers solve the trilemma: those with access to enough funding to provide quality. The trilemma stems from grossly inadequate funding for ECE, what economists call inadequate effective demand: the fact that most buyers are not willing or able to pay for ...

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