To determine what is the will of the public, it is important to ask them. Governments already do that when they hold elections, outline platforms and seek election based on the goals outlined. However governments may not fully outline their views on caregiving issues and may prioritize other concerns like defense or health budgets. They may make but not keep promises.
Governments already seek public opinion with public consultations and by being open to hearing feedback about what they are planning and doing. However consultations may not hear from everyone for reasons of logistics and by -invitation only may prejudice the results. It is not clear that governments always are aware of the will of the public.
Governments also look at current practice, doing statistical studies of how people earn, their education level,current lodging and by collecting other census study and time use data. However such studies capture what people are doing, and it is not clear if they are forced into those situations or freely choosing them. What level of education a person has may not reveal what they would have liked, were there money for it. What salary they have does not indicate if it is a fair salary or just the current salary. A snapshot of current practice does not indicate preference or fairness.. The rate of poverty may be high but is not likely the preference of the public. A snapshot can reveal where there are problems but does not show solutions.
A closer look at solutions can be found if people are asked what they want, asked about their preferred education level, paid work opportunities and what they think would be fair tax policy for themselves and others. Often on the topic of caregiving, the poll is a rare opportunity that the public is given to express its views on issues often not currently getting much government attention.
B. Polls and Validity
A RECENT POLLS
Many polls have been conducted on caregiving issues. Here is a list of some of the recent ones.
1988 – Canada – Vanier Institute – if parents are both in the paid labor force the preferred
child-care arrangements for children aged 0-5 were
18% relative , 18% other spouse taking turns, 33% nonrelative,
17% a center, 12% other
1990 –US – LA Times poll- reported in New Dimension Magazine- found that 79% of American women with paid income would quit their jobs if they could afford to stay home with their children
1990 – US -Virginia Slims poll in US finds that 60% of mothers with paid employment say their dual role puts them under stress
1990- US – Time interviews 18-29 year olds and 63% say they plan to spend more time with their own children than their parents spent with them
1991 –- Canada The Federated Women’s Institute finds that 69% of rural members asked said if economic conditions permitted they would prefer to be home to care for their own children
1991 – Canada – Toronto Star finds that 2/3 of parents say the best place for
preschool children is at home with their parents. 16% favor licensed
daycare over home care
1991- Canada – Globe and Mail and CBC – 76% of those asked felt that
children’s well-being is sacrificed is both parents have paid employment
1992 – Canada – National Post-Homemakers Magazine Poll finds that 78% of women say family is more important to them than career
1994 – Canada -Angus Reid poll finds hat 70% of parents who both were employed outside the home said if they could, they would choose to have one of them home with the kids
1995- Canada – General Social Survey – 59% of men and 51% of women felt that when women are in the paid labor force children suffer. However 68% said that men suffered when they were the only ones bearing financial responsibility for the family.
1995 – US – The National Child Care Survey of families finds that among those with annual incomes under $15,000 , 58% of children are in parental care all or most of the time.
-22% of children with two married parents were in parental care while only 8% of single employed mothers were in parental care.
-26% of single mothers in low income households use care by a relative, 23% of mothers in education programs use care by a relative and 28% of mothers with low income paid work chose care by a relative.
-21% of single mothers with paid work used family daycare and 27% used a daycare centre.
-among low income households 35% said they preferred care by relatives.
-only 16% said that cost was the main factor in choice of care.
-One survey participant said “Parents, as a group are the best trustees of their c children. They must have real choices”
-In the US 46% of children in low income single parent households are in care by grandparent some or most of the time
1996 –Canada – Canadian Council on Social Development – “The Progress of Canada’s Children” – finds that “Many parents go to extraordinary lengths so that one can be at home when the children are young, often living below the poverty line to do so”
1997 – Canada – Global Communications and Decima Research find
that 75% of Ontario parents feel that children with a parent at home
are happier and 60% feel they are better behaved
1997- Canada- Ontario Compass poll – 92% of Ontarians believe that parents themselvesare the best child-care providers for infants and preschoolers
1997 – US Pew research reports in Baltimore Sun that 81% of women feel it is harder to be a mother today than a generation ago. 25% of mothers with children under age 18 said if given a choice they would not work outside the home. 29% said given a choice they would work for pay full time while 41% said they preferred part-time paid work. Only 40% of those employed for full time pay said they were home when the kids got home from school.
1998 – US Newsweek- 70% of parents said that if was no problem to find a good daycare ` and lack of one was not the issue they still wanted more time with their own kids
1998 – Canada -Southam Compas and National Foundation for Family Research and Education survey finds that 86% of parents want change in tax law so young families can afford to have a parent home with the child. 81% said government should put more emphasis on family
1999 – Canada – Canadian Policy Research Network – a majority of parents say they want economic supports for parents during the first 3 years of life so a parent can have the option of being home with the kids
2000 – Canada – Angus Reid polls finds that 77% of Canadians want parents not the state to provide care of the children.
2000- Canada – Compass poll in July asks Canadians if government should fund daycare or give the money to parents. 70% or respondents say that money should go to parents, up 10% since 1997. Only 21% say the money should go directly to the daycare.
2000- Britain- Dr. Catherine Hakim in ‘Work-Lifestyle choices in the 21st century’ reports that 20% of women are centred primarily on careers, that 20% of women are focused primarily on home and family and 60% are ‘adaptive’ wanting to reduce paid hours of work at certain stages of their lives or to combine part-time paid work with being home with the children. Hakim found that most government policy focuses only on providing daycare which benefits mainly only 20% of the women surveyed.
2001 – Canada – Children and the Hill – Senator Landon Pearson finds
that the main concern for children across Canada is poverty
2001 – US Dr. Kathleen Sylvester in “Future of Children’ notes recent polls
showing the American public believes parents should be the primary influence
in their children’s lives and it is best if mothers can be home to care
for the very young
2002 – Canada -Macleans magazine survey finds that 97% of parents say raising children is a satisfying experience. 63% of fathers and 73% of mothers say that if they could afford it they would prefer to have a parent home with the children rather than at paid work.
2002 – Canada – Strategic Counsel finds that ¾ of Canadians would raise their children themselves at home if they could and almost 90% of parents asked would prefer to have one parent at home with the children but could not afford that option.
2002- Canada -Michael Marzolini, Liberal party pollster finds that 6 in 10 Canadians feel the federal government’s highest priority should be increased spending on health and social programs.
2002- Canada -Ipsos-Reid, Durex, Environics, Stats Canada surveys of the year find that 15% of Canadian men and 20% of Canadian women report having contemplated suicide because of stress. 66% of Canadians believe family is more important than paid work, 34% of Canadians take work home with them, 75% work for pay over 40 hours a week
2002- Canada -Strategic Counsel in “Canadian Attitudes on the Family’ finds that 71% of those asked say the current tax system makes it difficult for families to have one parent home with the kids. The majority felt the biggest threat to a family today is economic.
2002- UK – Pregnancy and Birth magazine finds that 75% of expectant mothers say that if they would afford it, they would not return to full or part-time paid work when their children were small. 87% of those asked say government should financially help mothers who are home rather than ‘ trying to force all mothers back into the workplace”
2003 – Canada -Family Caregiver News Magazine quotes Health Canada research finding that the number of unpaid home-based caregivers grows 15-20% annually due to shorter hospital stays and aging boomers.
2003 – Canada Environics reports that 77% of Canadians taking care of a gravely ill family member have taken time off paid work, usually without pay, to provide the care.
2003 –US Census Bureau finds that for mothers of young children overall paid labor force participation has been dropping, It was 59% in 1998 but in 2002 was 55% – Jill Kiecolt in ‘ Satisfaction with Work and Family Life’ says more and more women are finding the home more satisfying than the paid workplace
2003- Canada – Centre for Research and Information on Canada surveying Canadians in their 20s finds that there is a trend to insisting on flex-time workplaces
2003 – Canada – Millenium Group found that most new college grads value their personal life more than their paid work life and they want it addressed when they get paid jobs
2004- Canada The National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth finds that 51% of children aged newborn to five were looked after by a parent, 17% were looked after by relatives .Family daycares accounted for 16% of child care and only 10% of children were in a formal and regulated daycare setting. In Quebec 43% of children were cared for at home and only 21% attend regulated daycare despite its preferential funding. In Quebec 6% of children are in family daycare with a relative, 18% are in family daycare with a nonrelative, 4% are in home care with a relative and 4% are in home care with a nonrelative. 4% are in before or after- school care.
2005 – Canada – The Vanier Institute surveys 2093 Canadians finding that 90% feel that in a two parent home the ideal is for one parent to be home to raise the children. Among mothers in paid employment, nearly all would prefer part-time paid work to full-time. The second preference after at-home care was grandparent care, then care by another relative and fourth preference is child care in a home setting.
2005 – Canada– CTV network in Alberta released results of a poll asking who provided care of your child and of 7790 asked, 6050 said they have a family member providing such care, 8% use not-for-profit care and 14% use for-profit care.
2005 – US -the Ladders.com, a job site in New York surveys fathers and finds that 62% would put their careers on hold to be stay-at-home dads if they could. 45% said that their companies however offered no time off for paternity bonding with the child. 18% said their employers offered up to two months leave only. 31% of the 480 fathers askedfelt that it was more ‘valuable’ for them to deliver a keynote speech at a convention than to attend their child’s soccer game.
2005-US – Fortune magazine findsthat 90% of the best companies to work for help employees balance their paid work and their home life and those with flex time, job sharing and on-site daycare are highly ranked
2005 -Canada -BC Biomedical Laboratories of BC is in an industry where there is often a 90% staff turnover rate. However the rate at BC Biomedical is only 6% partly because its mostly female paid workforce is allowed to adjust their work times as needed to fit around their personal needs.
2006 – US -The Alliance for Marriage releases results of a poll Sept 2006 surveying paid work and family life. 62% of those asked said they found it difficult to balance paid career with family obligations and personal interests. 71% of mothers and 61% of fathers identified the problem. 29% felt flex time would help address the issue while 17% felt that time off for working overtime, or compensation time would be useful. 17% said onsite daycare would be helpful. 8% wanted job-sharing, 7% wanted telecommuting and 4% wanted expanded family-leave policies.
2006 – US survey finds that among single mothers there are high levels of stress. They express concerns about the lack of time they speed with their children and with their obligations for housekeeping, taking care of children and earning all without help from a partner. 60% are in poverty and most say their greatest challenge is economic. A 1992 US study found that the median income of a 2 parent family was $42,064 but for a single parent family was $17,221.
2006 Canada –Ipsos Reid surveys 1662 Western Canadian parents finding that 61% worry they don’t spend enough time with their children and 77% says that if they could they would spend more ‘quality time’ with them. 87% of parents said they did not have time to do all everything they wanted to do and 68% felt burn out by their busy schedules. Of how they prefer to spend time with children 31% preferred holidays, 27% preferred doing outdoor sports or activities such as picnics and 15% preferred just chatting and quiet times together.
2006 – Canada – Fleishman-Hillard Canada (formerly GPC Research) releases results of a Nov 2005 pre-election Canadian survey of childcare policy asking 2012 respondents their views. (310 in Atlantic, 401 in Quebec, 500 in Ontario, 200 in Manitoba and Sask, 301 in Alberta and 300 in BC) Results included:
-over 80% preferred parental care in the home as the ideal care arrangement for young children
-85% of rural residents and 80% of urban residents preferred to have a parent at home
– 75% of Quebecers and 91% of Albertans preferred to have a parent at home
-82% of males and 81% of females preferred having a parent at home
-86% of married Canadians and 76% of single-never married Canadians preferred to have a parent at home
-84% of low income Canadians compared to 78% of high income Canadians preferred to have a parent at home
-88% of Canadians over age 65 and 79% of younger Canadians preferred to have a parent at home
-78% of parents with children under age 6 at home preferred to have a parent at home
-70% of Quebec parents of young children and 78% of Ontario parents of young children preferred to have a parent at home
-If parental care were not an option the preferred other choices are 53% relative- based care, 20% family daycare, 7% for-profit daycare and 17% nonprofit daycare
-In Quebec 33% of parents preferred as their second choice relative based care. In that province 35% preferred a family daycare (dayhome) arrangement
-regardless of household income level, gender, age of parents,
or rural-urban the trend to want relative-based care was consistent
-Given options of how government should invest $5 billion per year for care of children, 62% preferred giving all parents a tax deduction, 57% preferred cash payments to parents, 45% preferred an overall tax reduction, 38% preferred subsidies to childcare centres and 35% preferred building a national daycare childcare system
-Asked whether a European plan for paid parental time at home with a baby for 3 years was advisable in Canada, 69% said it was a good or very good idea, 27% said it was a bad or very bad idea.
-the highest support for the idea was in Quebec at 79% of all parents
-60% of men and 71% of women supported such parental leave
-77% of young adults and 60% of senior adults approved of such paid leave
-asked whether policies should be in place to encourage grandparent-based care of young children, 53% thought it a good or very good idea and 42% thought it a bad or very bad idea
The polling firm has concluded that most Canadians do not prefer a national daycare childcare system and that parents even in Quebec prefer direct supports to parents.
2006 – US -Carrie Lukas of the Independent Women’s Forum in the US has reported on three recent US polls about women’s roles
-PEW survey of mothers with children under 18 found that the majority of women prefer part-time paid work over full time, and 20% would cut back paid work hours if they could in order to spend more time with the children.
-Public Agenda, a US polling firm, surveyed parents of children under age 5. 6% felt that quality daycare was the ideal care arrangement 70% felt that it was best for a parent to be at home if possible. Given a list of options the majority of those asked felt daycare was the ‘least preferred option”. 70% agreed with the statement ‘Parent should only rely on a daycare center when they have no other option”
Lukas concluded that daycare should be one option but the best resolution is to lower taxes for families so being able to be home with a young child is an affordable option for those who want it. Lukas wrote the book “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Women, Sex and Feminism”
2007- UK -Radio 4 in the Woman’s Hour program surveyed listeners, the majority of whom thought women should marry by age 30. Nearly 40% also felt that children were best looked after by a mother at home. The results stunned some women’s rights activists who felt that marriage was passé, but were consistent with the fact that marriage is again popular in the UK and that the divorce rate is at its lowest in 20 years.
2011 – US Fragile Families Survey follows 500 children from ages 1- 9 years, 75% of whom were born to unmarried couples. The study finds that though 82% were born into a romantic relationship, only 35% of those relationships had continued after 5 years. Unmarried mothers had lower incomes and worse health than did married mothers and father involvement declined over the five years. Children born to unmarried parents had lower cognitive scores, higher levels of behavioral problems and higher rates of obesity.
2012 – US- A North Dakota State university survey finds there is much more negative public perception of single never-married mothers than of married mothers. Single mothers are particularly negatively viewed for their childrearing ability and family lifestyle. In the US in 2009 there were 11.7 single parent households, of whom 9.8 million were headed by single mothers.
2013 – Canada –Albion Research surveyed 2022 Canadians finding a large proportion favor parental care of children over third party daycare, especially for young children. The study found
-76% of those asked feel it is best if a child under age 6 is home with a parent
-67% of parents would like government funds to go directly to parents not to daycare or kindergarten
-69% of those asked wanted to be home with a child under age 6 but if that was not possible, the next preferred option was care by a relative. The third highest ranked option was a neighborhood daycare, the 4th, a not for profit daycare and last a for profit daycare.The survey was commissioned by the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada.
2013- UK – the group Make Mothers Matter International has released results of a study of 11,887 women in 16 European countries, looking at their preferences regarding mothering. 76% of European women over age 18 are mothers but Make Mothers Matter found that the views of women themselves are rarely sought, only views of academics or organizations. This study found that:
-instead of wanting more daycare, a majority of respondents wanted more time with the kids.
-84% felt that spending enough time with the children is key to a good relationship with them
-95% felt that the service mothers provide for children should be recognized as important work
-83% did not feel teenagers can take care of themselves after school
-64% did not feel motherhood is well valued in society
-volunteer work was highest for mothers who were home with the kids.
-75% of retired mothers and 69% of mothers at home do volunteer work. 39% of mothers with one child and 77% of others with 5 children do volunteer work.
-33% of mothers surveyed had full time paid jobs but only 11% wanted full time paid jobs.
-33% of mothers surveyed had part-time paid jobs but 63% of mothers wanted to have part-time paid jobs
-26% of mothers wanted to be home full time with the children, 76% wanting to be home for those under age 1 year, 61% for those 1-3 years and 37% wanting to be home when the children are in school.
-where 3rd party care was the topic, respondents wanted it to be available part- time not just full time. They wanted paid job holidays that matched school holidays and paid job hours that matched school hours, all to ensure parents could spend more time with the kids
-19% wanted money for the parent to be home and 12% wanted more recognition of the at-home parent role
2013-Sweden – an opinion poll by the triweekly paper Varlden Ida surveyed parents about preferences and found:
-64% of those asked felt a child should be home with a parent optimally till the child is 4 years old. Only 27% disagreed..
In Sweden government policy massively funds nonparental care instead of parental. 80% of toddlers are in institutional daycare.The survey found that members of the ruling Social Democrat party members also felt parental care best. 76% of blue collar union members also said home care is preferable
2013 US – Pew poll finds that only 7% of mothers of young kids felt that the ideal situation was for the mother to have a full time paid job outside the home. In that poll 47% of mothers with paid work said their ideal situation would be part-time paid work only. Among parents with paid work and household incomes of under $50,000, 63% said they would prefer to be home with their children but that they needed the income of paid work. Among the broader population 52$ of mothers and 48% of dads said they would like to be home with the kids were it not for needing more income.
2014 US -The American Association of Retired persons find that 90% of those aged 65 or over want to remain their own homes as long as possible ‘age in place’. This preference seems stronger as people age. Among those aged 50 -64 only 71% envisaged that attitude when they were seniors.
2015 – US -Gallup poll finds that 56% of women with a child younger than 18 said that ideally they would like to be home to care for their family. Among those with full-time or part-time paid jobs, 54% said that they would prefer to be home with the kids.
2015 – Canada Statistics Canada finds that 25% of women in paid work preferred part time employment in order to spend time with their children.
2017 – UK- a study of 13 single parents finds that they are dealing with high levels of anxiety due to food insecurity. 67% struggle with finances. Single mothers are often stigmatized for not having paid work, while married mothers are praised for having paid work.
2019 – Canada-Social policy analyst Rick August studies parental preferences for style of care, finding that parents prefer home and family based care for preschoolers.
2019 – Canada – Statistics Canada finds that when parents choose nonparental care their decisions for those aged 0-5 years are
-51.9% in daycare or preschool
-25.6% in care by a relative other than parent
-20.4% in care in a family child care home
2019- US- A New England Journal study finds that rates of dying at home are 30.7% of deaths now, up from 23.8% in 2003, enabling those who wish that location to more likely get it. The increase in home hospice services has been noted with such care offered to 1.49 million people in 2017.
2019 – Australia- The Council of Single Mothers surveys 1000 single mothers finding that 70% struggle to meet basic expenses even though 65% are in paid employment. The survey concludes that employment alone is not a pathway out of poverty for single mothers.
2019 – US – The New York Times, with writer Claire Cain Miller, examines a new trend to value parents at home. Her research finds that more than half of Americans say they believe a young child should have a parent at home and more than half of all mothers say they would prefer to be home with their child.
2020- US – the National Center on Disabilities and Journalism studies preferences of the disabled for how they are described in the press. It finds that some prefer identity first language – (autistic person) but most prefer people first language ( person with autism). They find that people prefer to not be referred to as sick, crazy, loon, psycho, freak, insane, retarded, invalid, lame, slow learner, stutterer, mongoloid, special needs. They recommend that people are said to ‘use a wheelchair’ not as being ‘confined to a wheelchair’ and that disabilities be mentionned only when they are a vital part of the story. They recommend that people are not referred to as ‘afflicted ‘with, or suffering from a condition but that they ‘have’ it – eg. he has muscular dystrophy.
2020 – UK study finds that a majority of seniors prefer to ‘age in place’ and remain in their current home as long as possible. It cites similar studies form Hong Kong< Spain, Netherlands, Sweden and Germany finding the same result. seniors prioritize access to amenities, a clean walkable and safe environment, and nearby public transit.
2020- US- Stanford University finds that 80 % of Americans prefer when they die to die at home. Though some cultures have taboos against it and sometimes medical conditions make it impossible, the preference is high among the public. However in practice 60% die in an acute care hospital, 20% in nursing homes and only 20% at home.
B. POLLS AND VALIDITY
Like any other statistical study, polls must be valid and reliable. There are concerns surveying the public to ensure that the questions are unbiased and the sampling is fair.
a. the questions
How a question is framed should not show bias but only
ask for preference. The expression ‘childcare’ in these surveys usually does
define it broadly to include family based care. This permits respondents
a fuller range of choices than surveys that ask if a person
prefers ‘childcare’ but only by that term mean 3rd party care.
b. the sampling strategy
It is important that those asked are representative of the population
being considered. Asking about parenting choices is fairest if all
parents have equal chance of answering, not just parents from one particular
care style. Those criteria seem to have been met in the above surveys
where those not using 3rd party care were as likely to be asked
as those who use 3rd party care. In the past, some government surveys have aimed
at asking both parents and daycare workers as ‘care providers’.. However such
surveys it turned out had surveyed as parents, the parents who used
the daycare and those in the line up to use it and had considered daycare
workers who were themselves parents as parents for the survey. That
sampling strategy was much less likely to learn the views of
parents who preferred care by a parent, grandparent, sitter or nanny.
Finding who to survey is a difficult challenge given that not all
parents learn of surveys, not all own computers, not all may have
landlines to be phoned and not all are members of organizations easily
accessed to tell members of the survey. The sampling in the above
surveys however seems to meet the criterion of finding a range of
parents and of others interested in family care issues.
Bias is sampling can be a significant problem with surveys in
general and with surveys about caregiving, the easy availability
of identifiable populations who use daycares listed in directories
has often led governments to survey mostly daycare users
on issues of childcare. Surveying union members who represent
daycare members also risks creating a bias in sampling.
In a parallel way however asking parents who are moms at
home bloggers or readers of homemaking magazines may tilt
the balance to over represent views of those at home. The
challenge for those creating polls is to avoid such bias and
to equally survey the widest possible range of parents
choosing various parenting styles. This criterion seems to
have been met however in the polls above.
3. Interpretation of data
Poll questions sometimes ask for reasons behind decisions made and often
reveal financial pressure to choose a care style that is not a preference..
A resolution of that dilemma is often suggested by daycares tomake daycare
universal, to make sure that daycare is there for those who ‘need’ it and that it is not costly. However the other potential solution more consistent with public will
would logically be to ensure that money was not the determiner of the decision. When respondents are asked about how government money should
be directed, the pattern of answers shows a preference for money
to flow to the parent so they can make the decisions themselves.
When the public will is surveyed and is representative and consistent
over time as it seems to be, the counter argument has sometimes been
that what people want may be true but it is not ‘realistic’. The argument promoting third party care to be preferentially funded has been that
economic pressures are a fact and that people can’t always get what
they want. The counter argument could be made however that in a fair society
government does owe people laws that permit them to as far as possible
have a chance to get what they want. If tax laws could be made to
enable a range of care choices, such a goal may be as realistic as accepting
as inevitable that some people have no choice.
In equality rights issues, where there has been a historic discrimination against
a role, as there has been for traditional caregiving, the arguments against valuing
it have often been that the discriminatory situation is just reality. To address
that attitude is itself vital to confronting discrimination since accepting a
discrimination and creating ways to work with it, risks itself perpetuating it.
The particular challenges of single mothers have been noted in many studies as
they discuss their many responsibilities for care of children, housekeeping
and their financial distress even if earning. There are several ways to address
those concerns, with daycare activists often arguing that the dilemma proves
a need for 3rd party childcare service and often free or low cost funded by
the state. The daycare argument is to say there is a need for single
mothers in particular to have daycare so they can earn.
The other interpretation of that data though is that single mothers are as entitled as any other mothers to a full range of care options for their children, and that if they want to be home for a while with the baby or use grandparent or other family based care, those options should also be possible and equally valued by the state. To deprive single mothers of the dignity and range of options could itself be viewed as an unfair discrimination based on marital status. It could be argued further that how we treat single mothers without links to income or a man, shows in a more purefied form how society values parenting itself. When there is negative perception even contempt for a single mother who is home with a child, we are looking directly at societal bias against caregiving and women who do it. The negative outcomes of children from a single parent home may well be mitigated significantly, when they have one absent parent already, by not also forcing the other parent they have left to also be away from them for long periods of time. The case could be made that children of single parents in particular need the anchoring presence of a parent or family member given their significant