Quality day care has long been seen as critical to a child’s early development. And a new report shows the unsurprising obstacle that prevents many families from getting that care: the cost.
In the United States, about 11 million children under the age of 5 are in some sort of child-care arrangement, with each child spending an average of 36 hours there each week. The demand for quality care is high, and the cost, according to this new report from Child Care Aware of America, a national organization of child-care resources, is out of reach for many.
In D.C., a year of infant care in a day-care center costs $22,631, which is more than three times what it costs for a year at a public college in the city. Infant center-based care — which is more expensive than sending a child to day care in a home — takes about 14 percent of the average married family’s income. For the average single parent, the cost for this day care would consume more than 88 percent of income.
And single parents with two children and married families with two children at the poverty line in D.C. would pay more than 100 percent of their income for center-based and home-based care.
The variances in cost of child care among states has to do with factors like the differences in cost of living and licensing requirements for day-care centers.
In Maryland — at $13,932 per year for an infant in a center — day care costs less than in D.C., but it’s still more than in-state college tuition, which runs $8,724 per year in Maryland. (Note: In Maryland, child-care numbers include the entire state, from urban to rural, whereas D.C. numbers include only an urban area.)
In Maryland, it takes more than 12 percent of a married family’s income to send an infant to a day-care center. That percentage jumps to 20 percent for a married family with two children. For a single parent in Maryland? It’ll cost nearly 40 percent of income to send an infant to day care, and 63 percent to send two children.
In Virginia, it costs a little less to send an infant to day care, $10,458, than it does to attend a public university for a year. Infant care for the average married family will take about 11 percent of income, and 38 percent of a single parent’s income.
Read the full report here to see what child care costs across the whole country, and what is driving these costs.