The United States has been struggling to decrease unemployment rates, with companies choosing to lay off hundreds of thousands. The jobs market is not the only issue plaguing America currently—there are also people who can’t afford food or healthcare because they don’t have enough money in their accounts. Biden believes that this problem could be solved if he were elected president and implemented a soft infrastructure agenda for America.

The “build back better act timeline” is a major plan that has been proposed by Joe Biden to boost the economy. However, critics have argued that it may not be enough to boost growth.

The Democrats in charge of Washington are reshaping a multibillion-dollar plan that would extend the social safety net and increase renewable energy, but one crucial uncertainty hovering over their efforts is how it would affect the economy.

President Biden has called a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan enacted by the Senate earlier this year and a reconciliation measure Democrats are attempting to reduce from its initial $3.5 trillion price tag as “once-in-a-generation investment” in the economy.

Investment, in general, refers to expenditure that generates a stream of rewards for years to come, so increasing the economy’s size and productivity. A letter from 17 Nobel Laureates in Economics suggests that both legislation qualify as infrastructure “by making essential investments in human capital, the care economy, research and development, public education, and more…,” according to a recent White House document. This plan invests in long-term economic capacity and will improve the ability of more Americans to contribute to the economy constructively.”

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Other economists, on the other hand, aren’t so confident. Most people think that goods like roads, bridges, and airports, which are financed under the bipartisan measure, qualify as investment. However, research suggests that provisions in the reconciliation plan, including as free community college, increased Medicare eligibility and benefits, and paid family leave (together known as “soft infrastructure”), would not improve economic development.

Because there are so many distinct components to Mr. Biden’s broader program, it will take decades to adequately assess their efficacy. Economists are still split on Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal after eight decades.

Furthermore, not all of the reconciliation bill’s stated advantages, such as boosting family quality of life, reducing inequality, slowing global warming, and extending healthcare, can be evaluated by GDP.

Mr. Biden said earlier this month in Michigan that “while our rivals are investing in the care industry, we’re standing still.” “Millions of American parents are feeling the pinch, finding it difficult to work and make a living while caring for their children or elderly parents.”

“The Build Back Better reconciliation package is a historic, long-term investment in our nation’s economic future—an investment that research suggests will increase GDP, create a larger labor force, increase global competitiveness, improve living standards, and greater equity in the decades to come,” said Emilie Simons, a White House spokeswoman.

While both sides of the discussion may refer to studies that support their respective positions, here’s what academia and other research has to say about three key components.


President Biden calls his planned multibillion-dollar economic plan a “once-in-a-generation investment.”

Pool by Shawn Thew, courtesy of CNP/Zuma Press.

Community college is available for free.

Mr. Biden’s plan would remove tuition for two years of public community college while also offering extra money to help low-income students afford living costs.

The premise is that education and training increase human capital, which in turn increases future earnings and GDP. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, more than a quarter of students in higher education are enrolled in a public two-year community college.

In recent years, research on free-college initiatives in a variety of towns and states has shown that they usually increase enrolment. Because so many students who enroll do not graduate, frequently because they are not prepared for college-level coursework, the development of real educational attainment and income is less evident.

Since the 2015 high school graduation class, the Tennessee Promise program has provided all recent high school graduates with free two-year community college tuition while also allowing them to access additional state and federal financial assistance. According to the system that controls Tennessee’s community colleges, the number of first-time students in the state increased by about 25% in its first year.

“We can anticipate more kids to go to college if they know it would be tuition-free,” said Celeste Carruthers, an economics professor at the University of Tennessee who has researched the program.

According to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation, just 18.1 percent of Tennessee Promise participants in 2015 graduated three years later. Nearly half of the participants (48.8%) have dropped out.

According to Jack Mountjoy, an economics professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, “free community college may dissuade some students from pursuing four-year degrees that would have improved their salaries more.” He discovered just a little amount of evidence that higher enrolment in two-year institutions improves educational achievement and earnings.

“Any initial cost savings a student would have obtained by studying at the two-year instead of the four-year immediately would very certainly be negated by the professional earnings losses they will have,” Mr. Mountjoy said in an interview.

Mr. Mountjoy discovered good economic results for students who were given free community college but would not have gone to college otherwise. “Roughly ten years after arriving, they raise earnings by about 20%,” he remarked.


President Biden wants to waive public community college tuition for two years.

Reuters/Andrew Craft/Fayetteville Observer

The Biden administration claims that spending $225 billion over ten years to provide 12 weeks of paid leave for parenting, family, illness, and other reasons, worth up to 80% of a worker’s salary, will improve both quality of life and economic output by encouraging more women with children to enter the workforce.

California was the first state to establish a paid family leave program in 2002. Since July 2004, the Paid Family Leave Act has provided employees with six weeks of partially paid leave, supported by payroll deductions, to attend to a significant health condition affecting them or a family member, or to connect with a new child.

According to the state’s Employment Development Department, the number of yearly claims has consistently increased from 154,425 in 2005 (the program’s first full year) to 288,778 in 2020.

According to the White House, a study of the California program found that new moms who took the leave were more likely to be working nine to twelve months after delivery, perhaps because those with weaker labor force links had greater job constancy.

However, a 2019 study article using IRS tax data and published by three academic economists and one from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago found “no evidence that (the legislation) enhanced women’s employment, wage wages, or attachment to employers.”

The article concluded that new mothers taking paid parental leave had “reduced employment by 7% and dropped annual income by 8%, six to ten years after giving birth, when compared to women giving birth in previous years and in other states.”

According to the research, new moms who have access to paid leave may expect to get roughly $1,833 in salary replacement for a year, but around $25,681 less in earnings over the following decade, for a net loss of nearly $24,000.


According to the Biden administration, a universal pre-K system would provide significant economic gains.

Reuters photo

Preschool and child care are provided for free or at a reduced cost.

The Biden administration claims that by making it simpler for parents to work, its proposal to increase access to preschool and inexpensive child care would aid long-term economic development.

The Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a think tank dedicated to reducing income inequality whose former director is now a member of Vice President Joe Biden’s Council of Economic Advisers, found that the benefits of universal pre-K to the country’s GDP could be more than three times greater than the investment.

According to the group’s study, a $30 billion yearly public investment in high-quality pre-kindergarten education over 35 years would result in 353,000 additional employment in only two years. It stated the program’s cost was outweighed by higher tax income and decreased government expenditure “by a ratio of 1.61-to-1,” implying that “the investment more than pays for itself both in terms of enhanced GDP and budgetary savings.”

However, merely increasing child care availability does not ensure success; the quality of care and the impact on children of being separated from their parents must also be considered. According to a 2019 research, a program in Quebec that began in 1997 to provide extremely low-cost child care enhanced women’s labor-force participation, but had negative consequences for participants’ health, life satisfaction, and criminal involvement later in life.

According to Jonathan Gruber, an economist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and one of the study’s authors, there weren’t enough spaces in high-quality institutions to match the substantial rise in demand.


Is it possible for “soft” infrastructure to enhance economic growth? Why do you think that is? Participate in the discussion below.

“There is now a substantial economics literature suggesting that access to high-quality child care improves results,” Mr. Gruber said, “but just increasing access without investing in assuring enough supply might lead to poorer outcomes.”

Attending child care has a long-term detrimental influence on noncognitive qualities such as patience and tenacity, according to the study’s authors. “Increases in hostility and hyperactivity, as well as increases in crime rates, are concentrated among boys,” they stated.

The White House replied by claiming that Mr. Biden’s approach is unique. “The initiative was immediately scaled up in Quebec, which presented issues,” Ms. Simons said. “As the program unfolds, the president’s plan invests in expanding the system’s capacity to ensure that families have access to high-quality care.”

According to Kent Smetters, an economics professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, the effectiveness of preschool and other programs is dependent on how effectively they are targeted.

“It can really enhance GDP by approximately 0.1 percent if it’s extremely focused preschool and child care,” Mr. Smetters added. A universal program, on the other hand, would cover the cost of child care for parents who would have paid otherwise. “You’re producing even greater deficits,” he continued, “but you’re not really increasing production for those folks because they would have purchased it themselves.”

John McCormick can be reached at [email protected]

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Biden’s “soft infrastructure agenda” may not boost growth. Biden has proposed a $5 billion plan to rebuild America’s roads, bridges and railways. Reference: build back better jobs.

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