Childcare costs account for a third of a family’s income
In news that will come as no surprise to parents, the latest report is out confirming that childcare is still expensive as hell for the average family. The Center for American Progress – an independent, nonpartisan policy institute – recently issued its yearly childcare cost report, along with fact sheets for all fifty states, and the bottom line is: Childcare is expensive AF.
According to the report, the average cost of center-based child care in the U.S. is nearly 30 percent of the median family income. 30 percent. That means parents are spending nearly 1/3 of their hard-earned dollars on their kids’ care – and that doesn’t even cover things like sports and extracurricular activities, college funds, food, and housing.
Childcare is most expensive in D.C., where the average annual cost of care for an infant and a four-year-old is $40,521 – 51% of the medium income for families with children. The most affordable state is Louisiana where childcare for an infant and four-year-old is $10,674, or 20% of the median income for families with children. Overall, families of four in 24 states are paying at least 30 percent of their income on childcare; in only two states (Louisiana and South Dakota) childcare accounts for less than 20 percent of the median family income.
This is bullshit, folks. Childcare has become a Catch-22 for American families. It costs more to send a kid to college than pay for childcare, yet childcare workers aren’t paid a living wage and only 10% of child care programs are considered high quality. In other words, we’re shelling out a boatload of money for modest childcare and the people who are caring for our children are barely able to pay their bills too.
No wonder so many women choose to leave the workforce – except that isn’t necessarily a good option either, as data shows that leaving the workforce for a few years to raise children can cost a family hundreds of thousands of dollars in income, wage growth, and retirement assets. We’re stuck between a rock and hard place, and families with young kids are really feeling the pain.
There has to be a better way. It shouldn’t be this hard to have a job, build a career, and raise a family. We need to find a way to make childcare affordable for families while also paying childcare workers more than poverty wages.
Subsidized childcare, tax credits, paid family leave, and public education are all ways to make the rock and hard place a little less painful. Legislators, we’re looking at you. Not to mention that fact sheets from the Center for American Progress show that if childcare costs didn’t exceed 10% of the median family income there would be a significant boost to a state’s economy.
Flexible work arrangements, like those offered at Patagonia and Latched Mama, would also be a big help. Corporate America, are you listening?
The trouble is working parents are already stretched so thin that finding the time, money, and energy to mobilize and advocate for change is just one more mountain to climb. We need help and we need it now – if not for our sake, then for the sake of our children.