There's A Massive Shortage Of Quality Child Care Options

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There’s a shortage of quality, affordable child care

In news that will come as no surprise to parents, child care continues to be stressful AF. Not only is it expensive as hell, but according to NPR, new information shows that a third of parents surveyed said they had trouble finding quality child care – and the problem is even worse in certain areas.

After looking at nearly 7,000 zip codes in eight different states across the country, an analysis conducted by the Center for American Progress found that 48% of those locations were “child care deserts” – defined as those areas with at least 30 children under the age of 5 and either no child care centers or so few centers that there are more than three times as many children under age 5 as there are spaces in the child care facility.

Among the states surveyed, more than 27 million people live in child care deserts, including 1.8 million children under the age of five. Not surprisingly, rural areas are more likely to be child care deserts. Fifty-four percent of rural ZIP codes surveyed fit the definition of “child care desert” and a whopping two-thirds of rural child care deserts have no child care centers at all.

As if the lack of child care weren’t bad enough, it’s also expensive as hell. In fact, in most states childcare costs 85% of the median cost of rent, and according to a report from The Care Index, in 33 states the cost of infant care is higher than the cost of college tuition ($9,589 a year for daycare compared to $9,410 a year for college). Take a minute to let that sink in – it costs more to send a kid to daycare than college.

With costs as high as they are, and the lack of available child care options, some parents might choose to stay home – assuming they can afford to forego the income, which many families cannot – but doing so can cost a family hundreds of thousands of dollars in income, wage growth, and retirement assets over the years.

So what’s a family to do? We’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, and something has to give. A good childcare provider – whether a babysitter, nanny or day care employee is worth their weight in gold – and if we’re a country that preaches about things like “family values,” it’s time we start doing something to take care families, or at least ease the burden.

There’s no quick fix for our nation’s childcare problem, but things like increased oversight of child care facilities, government subsidies, tax credits, a strong public education system, and paid family leave would all help make that rock and hard place a little less hard.

Come on, America, we can do better. We have to do better.