Dec 20

New report underscores the high cost of child care

Affordable and accessible high-quality child care is a critical issue for working families across the U.S. Although the benefits of quality child care for both children and their parents are numerous, many families struggle to afford and find child care that meets their needs. The 10th edition of Child Care Aware of America’s report, Parents and the High Cost of Child Care, reveals the ongoing challenges families have faced regarding child care over the past decade. The report also discusses the impact the high cost of child care has on the child care workforce, what some states are doing to better support the families in their community, and steps we can take as a country to make sure that all families have access to quality, affordable child care.

Below are a few highlights from the report:

Child care costs are high.

  • Examining the cost of child care in the U.S., the report found that the cost of center-based infant care was unaffordable for parents in all but one state. Although the cost of child care should not be more than 7 percent of a families’ median income (based on standards from the Department of Health and Human Services), in some states it was more than two times as high, accounting for 14 percent of a families’ median income. 
  • In 19 states, the annual average cost of center-based care for a four-year-old is higher than the cost of college tuition.
  • Another startling finding from the report is that in all 50 states, a child care worker who has two children would spend more than half of their income on child care if they wanted to enroll their children in center-based care.  In 14 states, this cost would be more than 100 percent of a child care worker’s income.

Certain communities are more heavily impacted.

  • The report found that child care deserts, or areas where families have either limited or no access to quality child care, are especially prevalent in, “low-income communities, rural communities, among families of color, and among families with irregular or nontraditional work schedules.”
  • Among low-income families, paying for child care is especially challenging, where the average cost of center-based care for an infant is between 17 and 43 percent of a families’ income.

Where do we go from here?

  • The report outlines a number of recommendations to help ease the cost burden of child care for families, including those in the child care workforce, such as increasing federal investments in child care funding through the Child Care and Development Block Grant, creating public-private partnerships that will invest in child care at the local level, and prioritizing professional development and a living wage for child care workers.

To learn more, visit Child Care Aware of America’s website where you can download a copy of the full report, as well as find out what the cost of child care looks like in your state through Child Care Aware of America’s new interactive map.