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Child Care: More Expensive Than Rent?

Veer

If you’ve noticed that the cost of childcare has begun eating into larger chunks of your household budget, you’re not alone: on average, childcare has become more expensive than housing in most states, according to a report released today. 

Even as the economy continues to stagnate, the cost of childcare has continued to rise and families struggle to afford quality care. 

The report, conducted by Child Care Aware of America, surveyed the average cost of child care in 2011 for infants, 4-year-olds, and school-age children in centers and family child care homes nationwide. Among its findings:

  • In 35 states and the District of Columbia, the average annual cost for center-based care for an infant was higher than a year’s in-state tuition and related fees at a four-year public college. 
  • In every state and the District of Columbia, center-based child care costs for two children (an infant and a 4-year-old) exceeded annual average rent payments.
  • In 2011, the average annual cost of full-time child care for an infant in a center ranged from about $4,600 in Mississippi to nearly $15,000 in Massachusetts. 
  • The average annual cost of full-time care for a 4-year-old child in a center ranged from about $3,900 in Mississippi to nearly $11,700 in Massachusetts.
  • In New York, parents of school-age children paid nearly $11,000 a year for part-time care in a center. 
  • In 2011, the average annual cost of full-time care for an infant in a family child care home ranged from $4,500 in South Carolina to nearly $10,400 in New York. 
  • The average annual cost for a 4-year-old in a family child care home ranged from $4,100 in South Carolina to about $9,600 in New York.

It’s not just childcare that’s getting more expensive. These spikes come at a time when everything seems to be getting pricier. Gas prices are flirting with this year's high of nearly $4 a gallon. And food prices have inched up nationwide – the United Nations index of cereal prices shot up by 17% in July alone

The report ranks the 10 least-affordable states for center care, based on the cost of child care as a percentage of state median income for a two-parent family. Ranked order, these were: New York, Minnesota, Oregon, Colorado, Hawaii, Kansas, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Indiana and Wisconsin.

The least-affordable states (in ranked order) for full-time care for a 4-year-old in a center in 2011 were: New York, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Oregon, Vermont, Colorado, Kansas, Massachusetts, Indiana, Maine and Rhode Island.

Because of the rising costs in child care, many families may be tempted to cut corners by seeking out affordable childcare. But Child Care Aware of America advises against unlicensed settings as they do not have to meet state health and safety standards, and providers are not required to be trained and the settings are not inspected.  

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