Stay-at-Home Parents Work Hard. Should They Be Paid?

Others have proposed sending a monthly check to parents for any caregiving needs, as Canada, Australia and most European countries do (or, in Mr. Yang’s case, sending a check to every American). Six of the senators running for president support the idea: Michael Bennet, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Mr. Booker.

They are co-sponsors of the American Family Act of 2019, introduced by Senator Bennet. It would send all but the highest-earning families $300 a month for each child up to age 5, and $250 for each child 6 to 16. People who don’t work for pay would be eligible — in contrast with the existing child tax credit — and it would be paid monthly, not just at tax time.

“Caregiving is the most meaningful work a parent can do, but for some reason, we’ve made it harder and harder on families,” Mr. Bennet said. The proposal would “give parents the opportunity to make decisions that are best for their families,” he said.

Other candidates, including Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders, also want to create a Social Security credit for people who take time out of the work force to care for family, “to compensate the more than 43 million unpaid family caregivers for their work,” according to Mr. Sanders’s campaign. (Ms. Warren, in her 2003 book, “The Two-Income Trap,” proposed giving at-home parents a subsidy, though she did not include that in her 2020 campaign plan for subsidized child care and preschool.)

The general idea behind the proposals is that children need care — and families take a financial hit to provide it, whether they buy child care or stop working. Child care costs have been rising, and in many places it’s difficult to find high-quality care.

Also, more than half of Americans say they believe young children should have a parent at home, and more than half of mothers say they would prefer to stay home (even though most parents work).

CreditCharlie Neibergall/Associated Press

Most of the Democratic candidates have proposed some form of subsidized child care or public preschool, and some say that a corresponding subsidy for at-home caregivers would allow parents to choose who cares for their children. (President Trump made a similar proposal when he was running for president, but did not include it in his tax plan.)