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How Child Care Became the Most Broken Business in America

Biden has a plan to make day care more affordable for parents—if the providers don’t go out of business first.
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Illustration: Jee-ook Choi for Bloomberg Businessweek

Deanna Cohen was 20 years into a career in the music industry when she realized it wasn’t going to work out. On paper she looked like a success: She’d worked her way up from college intern at a record company to vice president of music programming at a national TV network. She’d married, had a daughter, divorced, remarried. Then, in 2008, at age 44, she got pregnant with her second child.

Cohen and her family live in Portland, Ore., where the cost of caring for an infant runs as high as $2,000 a month. Preschool for her older child was cheaper, but not much, and most of the programs Cohen found ended at noon. To cover a regular workday, she’d need to tack on aftercare or a nanny. Cohen and her husband were looking at $45,000 a year or more in child-care costs—a figure they could barely afford. “I’m like, what am I going to do?” she recalls. She had a degree in education and had always loved working with children. “So I thought, ‘You know what? I’ll just open a child-care program myself.’ ”