The Case for Childcare: Exploring the business case for care


  • Community-centered research
  • Cross-sector workshops
  • Actionable recommendations
  • Insights reports

The problem

In 2022, NationSwell launched the first year of the Case for Childcare Collaborative to explore the business case for supporting working families, the childcare economy, and early childhood education. 

The COVID-19 pandemic and its effects have had profound implications for women in the workforce – millions of women left the workplace in 2020 and over 2 million women have still not returned, many due to the lack of affordable and accessible childcare. The implications of this social and economic issue have exposed a few key dynamics: (1) the US has a broken care system that has disproportionately affected women, especially BIPOC women, and frontline workers and their families (2) women, in particular, mothers, tend to bear the brunt of unpaid caregiving responsibilities, and (3) the economic consequences of this workforce exodus not only affects families and individual households, but business growth and the U.S. economy suffer overall, too. 

In partnership with American Family Insurance Corporate Institute for Corporate and Social Impact, Annie E. Casey Foundation, National Domestic Workers Alliance, Pivotal Ventures, and Working for Women, our Case for Childcare Collaborative has spent the last year engaging in research to understand the widespread challenges and opportunities when it comes to making the business case for childcare and the economic impact at large, while also seeking out solutions and examples of what is working.

We believe employers have an important role to play in the child care movement. We believe that care workers, early childhood educators, families, and working parents everywhere deserve more when it comes to access to family-sustaining wages, paid parental leave, and public support, like universal early childhood education. 

We are thrilled to continue this work for a second year, doubling down our efforts on employers of frontline, low-wage, and gig workers. 

Sources: Brookings, SHRM, US Chamber of Commerce

Current stats

$3 billion

of annual revenue lost due to employee absenteeism as the result of childcare breakdowns. (US Chamber of Commerce Foundation)

$840 billion

of lost economic output with muted participation from women in the workforce (Mom’s First)


the average salary for an early childhood educator (Indeed)


fewer child care workers today in the United States than pre-pandemic (Brookings)

Our collaborative model

Kicking off in fall 2021, our Case for Childcare Collaborative has engaged in a three key workstreams: 

Landscape research

on public and private policies and the business case for childcare

Targeted conversations

with leading experts actively working at the forefront of the childcare movement

Curated convenings

engaging over 40+ participants from the nonprofit, private, and public sectors


Childcare is an important linchpin for economic growth and a thriving economy. Supporting working mothers and families has manifold benefits including:

Workforce Productivity

Access to reliable and affordable childcare allows parents, especially mothers, to rejoin the workforce and contribute to economic productivity.

A study by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) found that every dollar invested in high-quality early childhood education generates a return of up to $16 in economic benefits.

Business Impact

Companies are beginning to recognize that supporting childcare can lead to a more engaged and loyal workforce.

A survey by found that 89% of working parents said that childcare support from their employer would increase their job satisfaction.

Long-term Societal Benefits

Investments in early childhood education pay dividends in the form of reduced crime rates, improved educational outcomes, and a more skilled workforce.

The Heckman Equation estimates that for every dollar invested in quality early childhood education, society gains $7 to $12 in return.

Opportunities for impact

When it comes to ways that employers can make a difference, our Collaborative has highlighted five calls-to-action:


Invest in internal business policies that value child care. Employers who provide childcare support not only see a return on their investment with current employees, they also become competitive places to work for top talent. An important frontier of benefits is including hourly, gig, and/or part-time workers to support those who need services most.


Change the narrative to value care. Employers have a role to play in how they talk about and value care – which can lead to sweeping changes to support women, workers, & children.


Understand the broken care model and what is needed to fix it. Many women sacrifice their employment to cover childcare responsibilities, leading to an absence of women in the workforce, which dampens our economy.


Fund innovative solutions working on the child care crisis. Early childhood educators & domestic workers need direct funding to increase the number of childcare providers & innovate to fix the broken care business model. Fund & support existing innovative care organizations through trust-based grants to pursue new solutions and provide quality care.


Advocate for local, state, and federal policy change. Employers can play a role in advocating for federal & state support to provide universal early childhood education & greater support for childcare (e.g. the TriShare model)

Where we’re headed

In December 2023, our Collaborative will be publishing a microsite that includes a deep dive into our research and insights. Please stay tuned!

The second year of the Case for Childcare Collaborative will focus on engaging employers to produce solutions that will help create more access to affordable and high-quality childcare for frontline workers and their families. The second year will be centered around the corporate audience, specifically targeting employers of hourly, gig, and frontline workers to surface the best policies, practices, and innovations that employers can commit to and activate within their workplaces.

Our vision for the future

Every child is able to receive quality care to set them up for success for the rest of their lives

Every care worker and early childhood educator feels valued and invested in for their work

Every working mother and family — especially frontline workers — has access to and support for childcare

Every employer of low-wage, gig, and frontline workers has a childcare strategy for their workforce

Join us for year two
Learn more