Understanding the True Cost of Child Care for Infants and Toddlers

Source: Simon Workman and Steven Jessen-Howard, Center for American Progress, November 15, 2018

A state-by-state analysis of the true cost of infant and toddler child care finds it is unaffordable for most working families.

Key findings from this analysis include:
Licensed infant and toddler child care is unaffordable for most families:
– The average cost to provide center-based child care for an infant in the United States is $1,230 per month. In a family child care home, the average cost is $800 per month.
– On average, a family making the state median income would have to spend 18 percent of their income to cover the cost of child care for an infant, and 13 percent for a toddler.
– In no state does the cost of center-based infant or toddler child care meet the federal definition of affordable—no more than 7 percent of annual household income. In 12 states, the cost of child care for just one infant exceeds 20 percent of the state median income.

Current public investments in infant and toddler child care fall short:
– On average, child care for an infant costs 61 percent more than for a preschooler, yet child care subsidy rates are only 27 percent higher for infants than preschoolers.
– Child care subsidies only cover the average cost of care for an infant in three states—Hawaii, Indiana, and South Dakota.
– The gap between the child care subsidy rate and the cost of licensed infant care exceeds $400 per month in nearly half of all states.

To address these findings, policymakers can take some immediate actions, such as conducting a full cost-of-quality study and updating child care assistance policies, but they must also look to longer-term solutions such as increasing pay for infant and toddler teachers and enacting comprehensive child care reform…..