In 2012, the cost of child care in the U.S. grew up to eight times faster than family income, according to a new study of the average fees paid to child care centers and family child care homes.
"Child care is an increasingly difficult financial burden for working families to bear," said Lynette M. Fraga, executive director of Child Care Aware of America, a nonprofit research and advocacy group. "Unlike all other areas of education investment, including higher education, families pay the majority of costs for early education."
According to the new findings, some families are spending more on child care than on food or rent, as NPR's Jennifer Ludden reports for our Newscast unit:
"In most states, average child care center fees for an infant are higher than a year's tuition and fees at a public college. ...
"Factor in two kids, and the study finds average fees higher than the median rent in all states, and higher than the average food bill in all regions."
In compiling its report, Child Care Aware of America looked at the costs of child care centers, including those run by religious organizations and family care homes. The findings don't include other options such as nannies, or friends and relatives who look after children.
To compare the costs of caring for two children, the organization used data from the price of care for an infant and a 4-year-old.
The study ranked U.S. states according to the affordability of child care (as a share of median income for single or married parents), not by the overall cost of child care.
"The dollar cost of center-based care for infants was actually highest in Massachusetts" at nearly $16,500 yearly, according to the report, "compared to just over $13,450 per year in Oregon; however, as a percentage of median income for married couples with children, care was least affordable in Oregon."
Oregon was also found to be the least affordable state for center-based care for a married couple with a 4-year-old, ahead of New York, Minnesota and Vermont.
The overall price of raising kids has also risen, according to government figures. Parents who had a child in 2012 can expect to pay $241,080 to raise him or her for the next 17 years, as Eyder reported for The Two-Way this past summer.
The high numbers may cause parents to groan, but Child Care Aware of America says it doesn't see cheaper child care as the sole solution.
"The study does not question this high cost," Jennifer reports. "It points out caregivers are already among the lowest-paid professionals. Instead, it calls on lawmakers to continue grants for the poorest families, and reconsider budget cuts."
And the costs of child care are also inflicted on businesses, according to the report, which cites a survey's finding that employee absenteeism as the result of child care breakdowns "costs U.S. businesses $3 billion annually."
In a letter introducing the new report, Fraga, the organization's executive director, calls affordable high-quality child care "crucial to our nation's ability to produce and sustain an economically viable, competitively positioned workforce."