Our onerous tax regime, which tends to force both parents into the workplace, is the place to start. According to Robertson, about half of married couples with children in the mid-1950s paid no federal income tax, thanks to a generous $3,000 personal exemption. If this exemption had kept up with inflation, it would be $10,000 today. The tax code's dependent-care tax credit is, perversely, only available for parents who go to licensed day-care providers, a bias in favor of commercialized care that is worse for kids than the informal care provided by grandparents and neighbors.
If it were financially possible, many mothers would -- to feminists' dismay -- stay at home with their young children or work part-time while relying on informal day-care arrangements. Indeed, there has recently been a slight downturn in the number of mothers who re-enter the workforce within the first year of a child's birth -- probably as a result of increases in the child tax credit.
The biggest, most important change would be for the culture to stop showering praise and adulation on working moms in order to save some for those mothers who make the personal and financial sacrifices necessary to stay at home with their young children. No group in our society is so selfless or does so much for "the children" as stay-at-home moms. But we value some contributions to children's well-being more than others.
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