The XX Factor

Trump’s Annual Child-Care Tax Break Would Give Average American Families Less Than $20

When day care costs as much as rent, $20 won’t go far.


According to Donald Trump, Donald Trump loves and respects women more than anybody in the world. That’s why he and daughter Ivanka have put forth a plan for affordable child care, an essential building block in the foundation of gender equality at home and in the workplace.

But Trump’s child-care proposal, which Ivanka is currently trying to sell to Congress, would function more as a handout to wealthy families than as necessary support for families already struggling to afford child-care services. Parents would get the subsidy as a bracket-based tax deduction, meaning people with higher incomes would get more money back. When I wrote about the proposal in February, I surmised that the minimum-wage workers who pour Ivanka’s coffee and do her dry-cleaning would get less money toward their child-care expenses than Ivanka and her husband, who are multi-millionaires, would receive.

A new analysis from the Center for American Progress puts exact numbers to that likely outcome. Using the median income in Trump swing counties—counties that saw a 15 percent or more shift to the Republican candidate from 2012 to 2016—CAP estimated what the typical family in those counties would stand to gain from the president’s child-care proposal. Analysts found that a four-person family with two young children in these counties (located in Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia) would get a tax deduction more than 1,000 times smaller than the deduction a similar family in Trump’s old Upper East Side neighborhood would get.

The median family incomes in Trump swing counties hover between $61,000 and $73,000, and annual child-care expenses average around $6,000. Under Trump’s plan, these families would get barely anything—their deductions would top out between $0 and $20. (From the GOP’s perspective, the great thing about making this a tax deduction instead of a tax credit is that families too poor to pay income taxes don’t benefit at all.) The median family income on the Upper East Side, where child-care for two young kids regularly exceeds $20,000 a year, is $295,000. These families—the Trumps’ former neighbors—would get a $7,329 tax deduction under the Trump plan. Families earning up to $500,000 could claim a tax deduction under Trump’s plan, and those wealthier people would get an even larger sum.

This proposal does the opposite of what it should. Poorer families spend a larger percentage of their already limited incomes on child-care than wealthier ones, but they’d get a much smaller break on their taxes. If Donald and Ivanka Trump are truly committed to getting more women into the workforce and helping them succeed, as Ivanka claims in a Financial Times editorial published Monday, giving them less than $20 a year for child care isn’t the way to do it. And it gets worse: A tax deduction only comes once a year, around tax time, making it useless to a family that already can’t afford to pay all its child-care expenses up front.

A better affordable child care proposal—one that would actually make a difference in Americans’ lives—would focus on families who are struggling to pay their child-care bills while meeting their basic needs and those who keep one parent out of work because the price of child care is high enough to justify the lost income. In her Financial Times piece, co-authored with World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, Ivanka Trump encourages countries to support women in their work outside the home. “We need to increase access to finance, redistribute care work, accelerate progress to financial inclusion, and offer programmes that train female entrepreneurs and help them access higher value markets,” Trump and Kim write. “We need to develop new legal and regulatory frameworks to boost women’s growth and productivity.” Women can’t be more productive and “access higher value markets” if they want to work but can’t afford to leave their children in day care. Wealthy women already can—and under Trump’s plan, they’ll have an extra few thousand dollars to throw around as a bonus.