It’s no secret that child care is expensive. But more and more studies show it’s far more critical than that. In several states the cost of child care can be financially crippling to families. The financial burden that child care presents is becoming a national topic of conversation for social and economic reasons.
According to a 2016 report from the US Department of Health and Human Services, affordable child care shouldn’t be more than 7% of a family’s annual income. But recent surveys show the majority of American families are paying far above that.
A 2019 Care.com survey shows 70% of families are paying more than 10%, within that number with more than 40% of families are paying more than 15% of their annual income towards child care. Because it’s a percentage of income, the burden is the same among all socioeconomic strata. Child care is expensive, no matter how much money you earn.
It’s a nationwide problem. The average cost of child care in the US is estimated at approximately $9,600 annually. In many states, the costs are much higher. Fortune reported in 2018, “In 28 US states and the District of Columbia, the cost of center-based infant care exceeded one year’s worth of tuition and fees at a four-year public university.” Many families are going into debt on a monthly basis to cover the costs or simply leaving the workforce to provide care themselves.
Child Care Aware® of America (CCAoA) is a national membership-based nonprofit organization working to advance affordability, accessibility, development and learning of children in child care. They see the impact of the child care crisis firsthand, “Child care is too expensive and it’s a labor-intensive system that requires access to a highly-trained workforce that is well paid. Families need access to affordable care and a comprehensive solution to the child care crisis in the United States because the system as it is now is unsustainable,” Dr. Lynette M. Fraga, Executive Director, Child Care Aware® of America tells Parentology.
A Larger Economic Issue
What is the main barrier to affordable child care? According to Fraga, “Access. Whether it is access to a high-quality child care system, access to subsidies and other funding streams to help pay for it, or finding nontraditional hours that meet the needs of changing families, access to child care is a huge barrier to care. Access to the professional development needed to continue to thrive as a child care provider today is also incredibly important.”
The inability to find affordable child care forces many people, mostly women, out of the full-time workforce or causes them to miss work, creating an economic issue. “The economic impact on lost wages, productivity and turnover cannot be sustained under the current child care structure. When child care is too expensive or unavailable, businesses lose,” Fraga says.
Because the pain of child care costs is being felt all around the country it’s become part of a larger national conversation. Many of the 2020 presidential hopefuls have addressed it as part of their platforms. Non-profit organizations have also formed to promote the need for affordable care. And national policy initiatives have formed as Parentology reported last month, Universal Family Care is being put forth as a model on the state and national level to ensure families can meet the financial demands of care at all stages of their life.