Cato Policy Analysis No. 59 September 25, 1985

Policy Analysis

Day-Care Regulation:
Serving Children or Bureaucrats?

by Karen Lehrman and Jana Pace

Karen Lehrman is managing editor and Jana Pace is associate editor of Consumers' Research magazine.


Executive Summary

The regulation of day care is 100 years old this year.[1] In the past 15 to 20 years, however, day-care regulation has come to consume $47 million of taxpayers' money.[2] Today, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have some day-care regulations. More significant, day-care facilities are also subject to a host of local zoning, building, health, fire, and safety statutes. These regulations, which vary from state to state and municipality to municipality, can dictate everything from the time a facility opens to the width of the exit door. The intent of these regulations is to ensure minimum health and safety standards for the children and to guarantee responsible care by the day-care provider. Unfortunately, many requirements do little to achieve these aims, while a major effect of regulation has been to raise the cost of day-care services, driving providers underground and limiting the number of children who can benefit. Unnecessary regulations are stifling the supply of day care at a time when the need has never been greater and shows every sign of continuing to surge.

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