Child Care Challenges: Cost and Availability Trouble American Families

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Most American families struggle to pay for child care, according to the 10th annual Cost of Care Report from 3,000 adults with children under the age of 14 were questioned in the poll about how much they now spend on professional child care.

According to a recent poll, families spend an average of 27% of their household income on childcare expenditures. (Photo: Lawrence Crayton)

Most Families Face Childcare Difficulties, With Similarities Across The Nation

The majority of families have at least one significant childcare difficulty, whether it be related to cost, availability, accessibility, or a mix of the three, as we have observed over the past 10 years. Although these difficulties are different for families throughout the nation, they have a striking similarity, says Natalie Mayslich, president of’s consumer division, to Yahoo Life.

The report shows how these three areas have an influence on parents. Here are a few of the main conclusions.

The majority of parents cannot afford child care.
Using numbers

  • Families throughout the nation spend 27% of their household income on childcare costs on average.
  • More than 18% ($18,000) of households making under $100,000 a year will spend that much or more on child care.
  • More than 24% ($18,000) of households earning less than $75,000 (43%) will spend money on child care each year.
  • 39% of households making under $50,000 annually will devote more than 36% ($18,000) of their income to child care.
  • Washington, D.C., has the highest costs for all types of child care (nanny, daycare, and babysitter).
  • Mississippi, Arkansas, and West Virginia are the least costly states for child care (nanny, daycare, and babysitter, respectively).

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Over 20% of American Families Spend On Childcare, Exceeding 7%.

These proportions are all substantially higher than the 7% of family income that the United States allows. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regards childcare costs as affordable.

Parents spend a shocking amount of money overall on child care. “The majority of American families cannot afford child care. Over 20% of the family income of working parents is spent on child care. When you take into account single-parent homes and hourly versus salaried jobs, the percentages become even more startling. And that’s a crucial aspect of the discussion because, as we all know, parents can’t work without care, according to Mayslich.

The price of child care is rising.
Using numbers

  • A nanny now costs $736 per week, up 56% from 2013 ($472).
  • The cost of childcare per week ($284) has increased 53% from 2013 ($186).
  • A family care center’s weekly price ($229) has increased by 80% since 2013 ($127).
  • A babysitter now costs $179 per week, an increase of 92% from 2013.


This increase is the result of rising childcare center prices, inflation, and changes in the sort of care that parents need due to remote and hybrid employment. Parents require individualized care that is more in line with how modern families live and function. The main childcare choice used to be daycares, but today an equal number of families are turning to nannies. This makes sense since, although being still a significant component of the care landscape, they are not the dependable alternatives of earlier years because parents are challenged by lengthy waitlists, limited accessibility, and inflexible schedules, Mayslich observes.

As they wait to move up the waitlist at childcare centers, parents are paying more money.
Using numbers

  • 64% of parents reported being placed on waitlists at childcare facilities.
  • 49% of those who applied had to wait more than three months for a slot to open up.
  • A year or more of waiting costs money for 25% of parents in rural areas. Most parents enlist the aid of a nanny or a family member. This results in an additional cost of $200 to $300 each week.


More than 70% of parents set aside money for childcare expenses, yet they still don’t think it will be enough. By the end of the year, 20% of plans call for going over budget.

The majority of waitlisted parents are single mothers, and 54% of them have had to incur additional costs while seeking a childcare slot. In order to manage or finance child care, single parents are also more likely to change their work schedule and hours worked. A second job was taken up by 30% and several jobs by 29% of single mothers holding hourly jobs. Single fathers reported working fewer hours on average (27%), whereas 25% said they had numerous jobs.

Access to child care might be difficult.
Using numbers

Finding childcare providers is tougher than it was last year, according to 30% of parents.

Less than six childcare facilities are thought to be available within a 20-minute commute of the homes of 75% of parents.


As a result, many parents (42%) rely on support from their families. Parents need more flexible choices to obtain care during non-standard hours in addition to the lack of access.

To get child care, families are also undergoing significant transformation. Finding a more economical provider (31%), relying on family or friends for assistance (27%), relocating closer to family (20%), and working multiple jobs (19%) were among the adjustments that nearly all of the parents polled (90%) said they had made.

Finding the best care for your budget, talking with your employer about child care benefits, setting aside pre-tax money to pay for child care, using tax credits and breaks, researching child care subsidies and programs, and advocating for societal shifts such as universal preschool, expanded tax breaks for child care, are just a few of the ways that parents can reduce the cost of child care.

READ ALSO: Challenges and Progress in Addressing Washington’s Homelessness Crisis


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