Across the country, we enter another holiday season with the sharp sting of inflation raising the cost of gas, food, and other basic goods exacerbated by heightened expenses associated with family life. Lack of comprehensive paid leave policieshigh-priced, and hard-to-find child care create unique barriers for families that prevent them from building strong financial futures.

Even prior to the pandemic, a lack of comprehensive family support policies created significant economic burdens for parents. A dearth of affordable child care options, in particular, creates a world in which married couples spend 10 percent of their incomes on average⁠—up to 35 percent among single-earner households (nearly 5 times what the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services considers affordable)—on child care. Parents are forced to make difficult choices about their children’s program quality, the working hours they commit to, and, particularly for mothers, whether they stay in the labor force at all. Even with strong economic recovery in recent months, there remain 432,000 fewer women in the labor force compared to before the pandemic. The loss of women from the workforce shortchanges the economy on potential taxable income (to the tune of nearly $35 billion, annually), contributions to social security, Medicaid, Medicare, and broader family spending power.

On the whole, the U.S. economy loses more than $57 billion annually in lost revenue, wages, and productivity due to persistent issues with child care. A lack of comprehensive paid family leave policies cost American workers nearly $28 billion in earnings during the pandemic⁠—and women were more than 40 percent more likely to take leave without pay, particularly women of color. According to the Committee for Economic Development study, a 1 percent increase in women’s labor force participation would generate $73 billion in new personal family income.

Limited family support policies create a powder keg for our nation’s future. The pandemic’s impact on women’s labor force participation and cascading economic consequences laid the fuse, and the high cost of families’ living expenses is a lit match. Kitchen table economics demands a bipartisan solution to these very real problems that exist on both sides of the aisle.

Read the full article about family support policies by Hailey M. Gibbs and Kathy Hirsh-Pasek at Brookings.