Child care in the United States can be a shocking financial burden. The high cost of child care and the low teacher wages and concerns of care quality are often confusing to parents. Infant and toddler care are significantly more expensive than care for children of preschool age.
The average cost of providing center-based care for an infant in the U.S. is $1,230 per month. The federal definition of affordable child care costs 7% or less of annual household income. The cost of center-based infant or toddler child care does not meet this definition in any state. Child care subsidies only cover the average cost of care for an infant in Hawaii, Indiana, and South Dakota. In half of all states, the gap between the subsidy rate and the cost of care exceeds $400 per month.
Many families who make the median income in their states cannot afford to send their infant or toddler to child care. In some states, child care costs can take up to 18% of their family’s income.
In 28 U.S. states, the annual cost of child care exceeds the cost of college tuition. In Florida, for example, center-based infant care costs about $9,238 per year and public college tuition and fees cost about $4,455 per year. In Washington, D.C., infant care is $24,243 annual, more than four times the annual cost of college tuition.
One large reason that child care is so expensive is that it is a very involved, labor-driven industry. Washington D.C. has the most expensive child care of any state at $24,243 per year or $2,020 per month. The cost of infant child care every month in the District is about as much as rent for a one-bedroom apartment. Massachusetts has the second-most expensive childcare in the U.S., costing $20,913 annually.