Fact of the Week: Child Care Costs as Much as 85 Percent of Income for a Family at the Poverty Level


December 23, 2015

cost of child care at poverty level
We all know raising a child isn’t cheap. But for families living at the poverty level, the rising cost of child care is even more difficult to afford. The cost of center-based child care for an infant ranges from 24 percent of income for a family of three living at the poverty level in Mississippi to a whopping 85 percent of income for a similar family in Massachusetts, according to a recent report from Child Care Aware of America. The report, Parents and the High Cost of Child Care, notes that a similar family would need to pay more than 50 percent of their income for their infant’s care in 19 states and the District of Columbia.

Child care is one of the largest expenses in a family budget and often exceeds the cost of housing, food, transportation and college tuition. While regional differences exist, the report found that average cost for child care for two children exceeded housing costs for homeowners in 24 states and DC. The average cost for an infant in a child care center was cost of child care single momshigher than transportation costs and food costs in every region of the US, and was higher than a year’s tuition and fees at a public college in 28 states and DC. Single mothers are also harder hit by rising child care costs. The report found that the annual cost of center-based infant care averaged over 40 percent of the state median income for a single mother in every state.

With an estimated 11 million children younger than age five in some form of child care in the U.S., the skyrocketing costs of that care is something we all need to be concerned about. Recommendations for addressing this problem from the report’s authors include increasing federal investments in child care assistance, expanding tax credits that help working families pay for child care, and simplifying the process for families to qualify for and access tax credits.

CHN is pleased that the FY16 omnibus spending bill enacted last week includes a $326 million increase in funding for child care over FY15 levels; it would have been flat-funded in the initial House bill. We’ve lost a lot of ground in providing affordable child care, with 300,000 fewer children served since 2006. The omnibus increase does not go far enough, but it is a step forward.

We’re also pleased that Congress acted last week to make permanent improvements made in 2009 to the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit, and we thank all of you who took action and told Congress to get this done. Now, a single mother with two children working full time at the federal minimum wage will no longer have to worry about losing her entire Child Tax Credit – over $1,700. For parents already struggling to make ends meet, this would be a devastating loss.

Cost of Child Care full

In addition to the written report, Child Care Aware of America has created an interactive map with a state-by-state analysis of child care costs, including the costs of child care for one infant and for 2 children, care in a center or in the home, and the costs as a percentage of income for a two-income couple or single parent. It also shows the cost of care for an infant in a center compared with the cost of public college tuition in that state. You can view the new report, download the digital toolkit to share infographics with your networks, and check out the interactive map on their website.

As many of us look forward to taking a break from work over the holidays and spending time with the children in our lives, we should think about how we can work together to ensure that all families have the ability to give their children the highest quality care – without breaking their budgets – in the new year.


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