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Correcting a Misperception Created by a Mythbuster

Here’s a letter that I sent on November 6th to the Washington Post:


Labeling as a “myth” the claim that “[c]hild care is so expensive because it is over-regulated,” Elliott Haspel correctly points out that even with no government-imposed regulations child-care costs would be high (“Five myths about child care,” Nov. 5). But he slays a strawman by incorrectly concluding from this reality that government regulation doesn’t meaningfully further raise child-care costs.

The argument of the Mercatus Center study that he criticizes is not that the sole, or even chief, source of high child-care costs is government regulation; rather, it’s that such regulation unnecessarily further raises the costs of child care. And further raising the cost of an already costly service makes that service even less accessible than it would otherwise be, especially to low-income parents. As the authors of the study conclude, “[e]liminating regulatory standards that do not affect the quality of care … will improve the quality of child care while making it more affordable to low-income families.”

Contrary to Haspel’s supposition, “more affordable” isn’t a synonym for “inexpensive.” And “more affordable” is indeed a desirable outcome.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030