National study shows child care costs are untenable for families

Posted by U.S. Department of Labor on February 28, 2023

The newly launched National Database of Childcare Prices, which provides childcare prices in 2,360 U.S. counties, shows that childcare expenses are untenable for families throughout the country and highlights the urgent need for greater federal investments, the U.S. Department of Labor has announced.

Sponsored by the department’s Women’s Bureau, the database shows prices vary by childcare provider type, age of children and location. It includes median prices for center- and home-based providers for children from ages 0 to 12. The database is the most comprehensive public federal source of childcare prices at the county level.

The report shows that Philadelphia families are forced to spend a larger chunk of their pay on childcare than in any other Pennsylvania county, and it’s likely affecting the number of women in the workforce as well. [An article in the Philadelphia Inquirer (paywall) highlights data from the study for the Delaware Valley region.]

new brief drawing on available data across 47 states shows childcare prices for a single child ranged from $4,810 for school-age home-based care in small counties to $15,417 for infant center-based care in very large counties. When adjusted for inflation, this equals between $5,357 and $17,171 in 2022 dollars. These price ranges are equivalent to between 8 percent and 19.3 percent of median family income per child in paid care.

“All across the country, families are facing burdensome childcare expenses. The last few years have highlighted the tension parents experience when they need to go to work to provide for their families, but have difficulty doing so if they can’t access affordable child care,” said Women’s Bureau Director Wendy Chun-Hoon.

“The National Database of Childcare Prices shows that – where childcare prices are high – mothers are less likely to be employed outside the home, even in places with higher wages. Reducing out-of-pocket childcare expenses for families would support higher employment, particularly among women, lift more families out of poverty, and reduce disparities in employment and early care and education.”

“This data will allow our nation’s researchers and policymakers to measure potential economic impacts of childcare affordability accurately and identify strategies for enhancing employment options and economic security for women,” Chun-Hoon added. “It will give policymakers and advocacy organizations a tool to combine county-level childcare prices with local employment and economic indicators. By doing so, we can understand better the needs of working families and the impacts of a lack of affordable, accessible care infrastructure in their communities.”

In concert with the new National Database of Childcare Prices, the department released interactive county-by county maps of childcare prices and these prices as a share of family income.

Explore the NDCP website to learn more.

Learn more about the Women’s Bureau’s work.

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