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Universal pre-kindergarten helps women in the workforce, study suggests

While educators often hail the benefits of universal pre-kindergarten for young children, these programs also help mothers — both low and high-income women — return to the workforce, experts say.

A 2021 study found that free pre-k programs significantly increased the labor supply for women with incomes below 200% of the poverty line as well as those earning 400% above the poverty line, as Yahoo Money reported. These findings echo a 2018 study that showed universal pre-k boosted the labor force participation rate for both poor and affluent mothers.

This research may also help bolster the case for many local and state efforts to expand universal pre-k offerings while federal funding for the childhood programs remains stalled in Washington.

“For the pennies we taxpayers spend on universal pre-k, we get dollars in return,” said Rasheed Malik, one of the 2018 study’s authors and a Center for American Progress senior policy analyst for early childhood policy, as Yahoo Money reported. “Childcare workers do the work that enables all others to work. Decades of research has shown that the care and education that children receive is crucial to the health of our society, to families, and our broader economy.”