The 5 states where child care is least affordable


Paying someone to care for your children is more expensive than putting a roof over your head in most states.

The average cost of sending two children to day care outpaces median annual rent costs in all 50 states, and is more expensive than annual median mortgage costs in 35 states and the District of Columbia, according to a recent report released by Child Care Aware of America, an Arlington, Virginia-based nonprofit that advocates for affordable child care.

Families shouldn’t spend more than 7% of their income on child care, according to a 2016 recommendation by the Department of Health and Human Services, but there’s no state in the country where parents can follow that recommendation, according to Child Care Aware of America’s analysis, which calculated the average cost of care and compared it to median incomes.

Among those financially-strapped parents is Long Island mom Nicole Neal, a parent advocate with Child Care Aware of America, who said that even a relatively high-paying teaching job in Manhattan couldn’t cover child care costs, so she and her husband moved to the suburbs, thinking it would be cheaper. They were wrong, and Neal ended up quitting a job she loved to stay at home with their toddler son.

“I want to have a second child and every day I have mixed emotions,” Neal said. “Can I afford to put my career on hold? Can I afford to put this child on hold?” She added, “Having children is a joy; it shouldn’t be this hard.”

Table: States with least affordable child care

State Annual cost of
infant day care
Married couple
median income
Percentage of
median income
Massachusetts $20,125 $117,207.00 17.2%
Colorado $15,138 $90,857.00 16.7%
Utah $12,249 $76,736.00 16.0%
California $13,671 $85,762.00 15.9%
Oregon $12,249 $77,465.00 15.8%
Source: Child Care Aware of America

Table: States with most affordable child care

State Annual cost of
infant day care
Married couple
median income
Percentage of
median income
South Carolina $6,673 $76,465 8.7%
Kentucky $6,105 $74,992 8.1%
Alabama $5,715 $75,403 7.6%
Mississippi $5,178 $70,729 7.3%
Louisiana $5,683 $85,842 6.6%
Source: Child Care Aware of America

And when families can’t afford care, that has a ripple effect across the economy, researchers noted. Parents lose out on about $8.3 billion a year in wages due to a lack of child care, according to the Center for American Progress.

This year’s report is in line with previous studies by Child Care Aware of America, one of which found that child care costs more than college in 15 states.

Other key findings include:

• Child care workers themselves are paid so little that few of them can afford to pay for their own children’s care. Most make wages similar to fast food workers, and would have to spend more than half their incomes on child care in most states.

• Though they’re often painted as the generation that’s slow to grow up, millennials are having their own children, and the cost of caring for them is adding to their already considerable financial burdens, which include record student loan debt. Child care is unaffordable for millennials in every state.

• Child care costs outpace the costs of food, transportation and housing in many areas.

• A lifetime supply of diapers costs $2,000, approximately the same as an average month of child care in Washington, D.C. ($1,924).



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