It used to be that, once you popped out a baby, you started saving. Not just because kids are expensive (they are), but because you knew that in 18 years, you were going to get slammed with a gigantic bill for their college tuition, and you’d better be ready.
College savings plans abound: 529 College Savings Accounts (which you can actually give as a baby gift), and Gerber Life College Plan, for starters. But parents knew they had about 18 years to save up the costs of college, which are expensive as hell. Rising every year, according to College Data, college can cost an average of $34,750 in tuition and fees per year for a private college, $9,970 for state residents at public colleges, and $25,620 for out-of-state residents attending public universities.
Except now parents have a new gigantic cost on their plates, and it’s coming as soon as those babies pop out.
That cost is daycare. And according to the Department of Health and Human services, it’s unaffordable in every single state.
In fact, as explained here, according to a new report by Child Care Aware of America, the cost of daycare outstrips that of a public college education in a whopping 28 states.
According to Fortune, in 2016, the Department of Health and Human Services set a new bar for the affordable cost of childcare: no more than 7% of a family’s income. But Child Care Aware of America, says, “The cost of child care is one of the highest in a family’s monthly budget. It is often higher than the cost of housing, college tuition, transportation or food.”
While Fortune admits that the numbers are hard to pin down, it seems the average family is paying “substantially more than 7%” of their income. When you take various factors into account, including the age of the child and the type of care, the average cost of daycare is between $9,000-$9,600 a year: more expensive than in-state tuition once you count in books and supplies.
Want to have a baby in Massachusetts? You’ll be shelling out an average of $20,405 annually — somewhat less than out-of-state tuition at a public university. That averages out, with a two-parent income household, to 16.8% of a family’s income, which falls well above the Department of Health and Human Services 7% threshold.
In fact, in 28 states, plus the District of Columbia, Fortune says, “The cost of center-based infant care exceeded one year’s worth of tuition and fees at a four-year public university.”
That’s more than half of America, people.
And you thought you had 18 years to save up. Tough break, parents. No wonder that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 29% of women opt to stay home with their kids. These women are more likely to have less educational attainment, more likely to live in poverty, and most tellingly, more likely to have children under the age of five. They’re also more likely to work part-time, according to Fortune: 24.9% of women compared to 12.4% of men work part-time, and of those who do it on a voluntary basis, 6.5% said that it was because of “problems with childcare.”
But there’s another catch Fortune points out — a bad one. 60% of childcare costs come directly from the parent. College tuition, on the other hand, is “heavily subsidized,” with easily available loans, meaning that parents shell out only an average of 23% of the cost at a public school. So we’re actually dropping even more of an actual percentage on daycare than we are on college tuition.
We keep looking to the government to help us — 78% of Trump voters and 97% of Clinton voters supported the idea of improving daycare and making it more affordable — but Child Care Aware of America says Trump’s efforts have been too little. Only one in six kids is eligible for grants. Among countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, only Turkey spends less than we do on childcare and development, at 0.3% of their GDP. We drop a paltry 0.6%.
No wonder, in a recent survey by The New York Times, parents cite daycare costs as a reason that they aren’t having any more babies.
And no wonder parents, especially in those 28 states, panic when it comes to saving for daycare — or opt to space their children so they have only one in daycare at a time. There are plans out there to help you navigate the costs of daycare. But there shouldn’t need to be.
When the cost of daycare has overrun the cost of college tuition, we have a problem in this nation. And it’s up to us, the voters, to fix it. Senators like Kirsten Gillibrand have campaigned on this platform for years. We need more action, and less talk, about helping working parents make ends meet. Be that through vouchers or state-sponsored care centers, America needs a leg when it comes to child care. It’s up to us to demand it.