Affordable child care: states, cities and counties that have it
A year of child care costs as much as a year of tuition at a public college. Or a Hyundai Elantra (excluding auto insurance). Or two-thirds of the annual earnings of a minimum wage worker.
No working parent wants to cut their hours or call a career break because child care is too expensive.
And the costs are not limited to the current lost wages. The long-term cost of each year that a working parent spends out of the labor force to care for a child can be as many as four times the annual salary of a parent.
If you earn $ 75,000 and take a year off, you could lose up to $ 300,000.
Even a modest wage earner can sacrifice half a million dollars in current salary, potential future salary, and retirement savings before their child reaches kindergarten. It’s a huge dent in long-term financial health.
This is why affordable child care is so crucial.
Child care during the coronavirus pandemic
The global coronavirus pandemic has affected all industries, but childcare has been hit particularly hard. Many parents do not want to expose their children to dozens of potential carriers. Others work from home and try to save money by taking a break from their regular childcare.
But not everyone is closing their daycare centers. There are still many center and home daycares that are open. Many stay open because they can’t afford to miss even a week of work. Others stay open because healthcare workers, other essential workers, and some parents who really need to work are still using the daycare.
Despite this, Congress included a large number of support for childminders in the CARES law. The law also includes support for parents – you no longer need to earn less than 85% of a state’s median salary to qualify for child care assistance.
In short, childcare is still a hugely important industry, even though many parents keep their children at home. With the burden placed on frontline health care and other essential workers, this could be more important than ever.
(If you need financial help during the pandemic, or want to know how to best manage your money during a crisis, check out our coronavirus resource center.)
What does this mean to make child care affordable?
The affordability of child care services depends on the cost of care and the median income of a family with children.
In September 2016, the Department of Health and Social Services set the benchmark for affordable child care costs at 7% of family income.
This benchmark was created as part of changes to the federal Child Care and Development Fund program, which aims to provide high-quality child care to children from low-income households that generate less than 85% of the state’s median income.
Some low-income families may be able to spend more or less than 7% of their income on child care, and 7% is not necessarily an affordability benchmark for middle- or high-income families.
How we calculated the affordability of child care
Using data provided by Child Care Aware, an organization that advocates for affordable, high-quality child care; American Community Survey of the US Census Bureau; and an Economic Policy Institute analysis, we looked at each state and metropolitan area in the United States to determine where child care is most affordable.
All amounts are for a two-parent family and two children. The average American family with children has about two children, so these numbers speak for a common situation. It also allows us to combine childcare measures for infants, toddlers and school-aged children, the price of which varies.
Keep in mind that this analysis does not measure the quality or value of child care. Quality of care is an important factor that any parent will want to consider when choosing a child care provider.
A note on child care in day care centers and at home
There are two types of childcare in these figures: in a center and at home.
Child care services are offered in a commercial setting – Kindercare and Bright Horizons are two popular examples.
Home care involves taking your children to someone’s home where they provide child care.
In general, daycare centers are more expensive. So the type of care you are looking for can make a big difference.
The most affordable states for child care
The table below shows the percentage of annual income that a two-parent family can expect to spend on caring for two children (an infant and a four-year-old).
Here’s what those numbers look like on a map:
The most affordable cities for childcare
We looked at the affordability of child care in the metropolitan statistical areas (MSA) of the country. These population-based enumeration areas can encompass a single city, multiple cities, or an entire county. In general, three factors influence the affordability of child care services:
- Affordable real estate. Commercial daycares have to pay rent. They are often found in more expensive parts of the city, close to employment centers. Home daycare also incurs real estate costs. When real estate costs less, the price of child care can also go down.
- Affordable labor. Some sources claim that childcare providers are severely underpaid. We are not looking at whether child care pays a living wage in these areas. We’re just saying lower labor costs help lower child care costs.
- Reduced staffing requirements. State regulations, the age of the children, and the type of care facility determine the number of young children for whom a licensed provider can be responsible. In Louisiana, which occupies 14 of the top 100 spots, ratios range from one staff member to five infants under one year old and increase to one staff member per 15 children for five-year-olds. In the more expensive California, the state requires one staff member for four children under one year of age up to one teacher for 12 preschoolers.
The table below is based on the annual costs for a family with two adults and two children. However, the EPI calculated the cost of child care differently at the city and state level. The figures below are based on the cost of looking after four-year-olds and school-aged children.
If the city or the MSA is located in an urban area, the child care costs reflect the cost of in-center care. If the MSA is located in a rural area, the cost of child care reflects the cost of home care.
How to save money on child care
In California, in-home care for an infant and four-year-old child ($ 27,654) is much more expensive than in-home child care ($ 20,593). One way for parents to save money in expensive areas is through home care.
These cost savings are one of the reasons moms Erica Mackey and Elizabeth Szymanski co-founded My village, a home child care franchise in Montana and Colorado. Colorado is one of the least affordable states for child care at No. 45, while Montana is right in the middle at No. 25.
When the two women faced long waiting lists for quality child care programs near them, they were inspired to seek a solution. Mackey said some of the issues that make child care unaffordable are restrictive zoning laws, homeowner association rules and the lack of child care providers.
To meet the childcare needs of her own family, she says, “my husband had to cut back on part-time, and we had to set up a patchwork of providers to meet our scheduling needs because [local] caregivers could provide the full-time child care services we needed. It was very expensive. “
Another option that many people may not be familiar with is hosting an au pair. Graciela Tiscareño-Sato, president of an educational publishing house called Gracefully Global Group, told The Ascent that she and her husband hosted au pairs from Peru, Panama and Germany for eight years until the youngest of their three children entered first grade.
“Welcoming an au pair is never worrying about entering a crowded daycare or that a nanny does not arrive [the] morning because the car broke down, ”she said. “And because the au pair program is regulated by the State Department, the rules are clear to all parties, dispute resolution is built into the process, and the cost does not increase when you have a second and third baby. “
Affordable child care is a problem for everyone
The often expensive cost of professional child care from birth to school age and beyond is a significant problem in the United States, even for adults who do not have children or whose children have children. past the age of requiring care.
According to James J. Heckman, Nobel Laureate in Economics, well-cared for and well-educated children tend to have better outcomes in life, including higher education, less criminal activity, better ability. gain, lower drug use, and lower blood pressure. and professor at the University of Chicago.
Affordable, high-quality child care benefits everyone.
- Baldwin, Dave (2018). Paternal. “Why is child care so expensive?“
- Business Broker Network (2018). “A map of average childcare costs by state. “
- California Department of Social Services (2019). “Daycare capacity requirements. “
- Department of Health and Social Services, Administration for Children and Families (2016). Federal Register / Vol. 81, n ° 190. 45 CFR Part 98, Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) Program.
- Institute for Economic Policy (2019). “Child care expenses in the United States. “
- Heckman, James J. (2017). “There is more to be gained by taking a holistic approach to early childhood development.“
- Louisiana Administrative Code (2017). Title 28, part CLXI. Bulletin 137. “Louisiana Preschool Learning Center Licensing Regulations”, p. 22.
- Madowitz, Michael, Alex Rowell and Katie Hamm (2016). Center for American Progress. “Calculating the hidden cost of a career break in childcare. “
- Slovic, Beth (2017). Parent PDX. “PDX Parent Investigates: Why Is Child Care So Expensive?“
- Thompson, Derek (2019). Atlantic. “Why child care is so expensive. “
- United States Census Bureau (2019). “Families and Living Conditions in the United States: 2019. “Table AVG3. Average number of people per family household with their own children under 18, by race and Hispanic origin, marital status, age and education of head of household: 2019.