September 2021 Alumni Spotlight
This month we speak to alumnus Rasheed Malik who is Associate Director of Research for Early Childhood Policy at the Center for American Progress. He tells us about the American problem of childcare access, his Marxe undergraduate experience in the BSPA program, and more.
How did you become interested in connecting American families with good quality childcare options?
Childcare problems are much more common than one might think, and few people realize how expensive childcare is before they become parents. My entry point to the issue was as a parent, but I quickly saw how this issue touches on a whole set of issues that public policy is concerned with labor economics, market failures, early education and child development, gender imbalances in wages and unpaid work, and the work-family conflict that forces many mothers out of the paid labor force. Right now, the childcare system really only works for those with the most income and wealth, which I see as a great shame since we know from decades of research that the kids who benefit the most from quality early education are those from low-income households.
How has the childcare sector evolved during the pandemic?
The pandemic has pushed many childcare businesses and their workers to the brink of collapse. While most programs stayed open during the pandemic, this was not without a significant amount of risk to the teachers and administrators that run childcare programs. As many as one in ten childcare programs may have permanently closed during the pandemic, due to financial challenges that stem from the pandemic. This was already a difficult business to keep afloat, but without full enrollment many programs have had to take on debt, lay off staff, and cut back on hours to help balance their costs and revenues.
Why is now the time for policy change on this issue?
I have argued for years that this is a broken market, and one that needs significant public investment in order to meet demand at the level of quality we know produces the greatest benefits. The pandemic seems to have shed a lot of light on this issue, and with more women in positions of power in Congress, there is finally momentum for long-term investments in childcare. President Biden and his team of economic advisors all seem to recognize that this is a huge economic issue, especially for working mothers and women in general, and they are open to expert opinion on how to address this problem.
What is the role of the Center for American Progress in federal policymaking, and how are you able to effect change in your role?
The Center for American Progress is a multi-issue think tank that focuses on federal policy changes that will make people’s lives better, and CAP has been publishing research and recommendations for childcare policy for nearly a decade. Progressive leaders on Capitol Hill and in the White House listen to what CAP experts have to say on matters where there are opportunities to effect change. This can mean providing statistics and research that outlines the problem, talking through policy design in both an abstract and precise sense, or even testifying before House or Senate committees that are responsible for actually figuring out the legislative details.
What was your experience in the Marxe School’s BSPA like? What were your major takeaways?
I deeply value the education that I got in the Marxe School’s BSPA program. The program provided me with a solid grounding in economics, statistics, policy tradeoffs, research practices, and political communication and message framing. Some of my favorite classes were with Prof. Don Waisanen, Prof. Sanders Korenman, and my capstone class with Professor Neil Sullivan. I appreciated the hard-working, diverse student body, and really felt like the program has remained relevant in my career as a public policy analyst and researcher.