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Washington Post article features commentary from Brandeis Professor of Politics

Brandeis Associate Professor of Politics Jill Greenlee (POL) recently co-authored a Washington Post article titled, “Most Americans want Congress to support child care and elder care, our research finds—even many Republicans.” 


The article was written in response to President Joe Biden’s announcement of the latest revision of the “Build Back Better” bill concerning domestic social policy change. The research conducted by the authors aims to understand American public opinion regarding investments in the care-industry and corresponding infrastructure. In order to investigate this question, the authors submitted an online poll to thousands of people. This was done in partnership with an online platform called YouGov. Considering the data of 2000 respondents from four distinct demographic groups: Asian-Americans, African Americans, the Latinx community and non-white Hispanics. The authors’ results corroborate with that of other national surveys; generally across demographics and political affiliation, Americans support the need for more care infrastructure.


The authors summarize their results, saying that Americans seem to broadly support the implementation of better care infrastructure, however Republican lawmakers are hesitant to promote such social change. “Republican lawmakers’ opposition to such policies [are] at odds not just with Americans generally, but even, at times, with their own voters,” the authors wrote.


While the bill has policies that go towards a broad range of topics from mitigating climate change to lowering medicinal costs, there are several key components that pertain to child care in particular. For example, the bill proposes ways to more feasibly accomplish paid family leave, funding to allow for the decrease in child care costs and universal preschool for children of the ages 3 and 4. “These provisions would all help family caregivers, who face a range of challenges as a result of their caregiving responsibilities,” the authors wrote. As of now, the paid leave proposal has been cut from the bill, but the debate is ongoing for the other issues. 


The authors cite several reasons arguing why it is important to institute legislative support for family care needs. One reason is that women—especially women of color—have faced the brunt of economic despair due to the need to decide between earning a living or caring for others. The need to make this decision had “devastating economic consequences,” the authors state. Some economists assert that the lack of care infrastructure in the United States is putting it at a competitive disadvantage compared to other countries of a similar economic state. 


The authors assess the current perspective of Republican members of Congress, noting that currently all Republican members are in opposition to the Build Back Better bill. When inquired about basic family needs such as the availability of school lunches and summer meals for minors, the authors found that 84 percent of Democrats, 52 percent of independents, and 53.7 percent of Republicans agree that the government should indeed fund these provisions. 


Understanding public opinion and support from Congress regarding the Build Back Better bill is of particular interest since it will elucidate how well Congress is meeting the needs of the public. The authors conclude the article by writing, “How this legislation turns out matters both for its effect on families—and for Americans’ understanding of how well their elected officials actually represent them.”

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