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Regional economic development and child care: Toward social rights

Economic arguments are now at the center of child care policy discussions in the United States and Canada. We review the main economic logics applied to child care, namely long-term studies of child development on school readiness and future workforce, and short-term analyses of impacts on the regional economy. We analyze a sample of economic development-focused child care studies to demonstrate how they draw on a new discursive frame, authorize new coalitions of actors and champions, and introduce new policy tools at the state/provincial and local levels. Such economic logic makes the regional level a new priority for child care development, marking a shift in scale. We find the economic development approach is reshaping discourse and is leading to changes in public policy at both the state and local levels. The new paradigm of promoting child care as economic development has potential to strengthen child care as a social right and to enhance gender justice. (author abstract)
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