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Exploring the Unaffordable Cost of Childcare: Why Is Childcare So Expensive?

Raising a family is an incredibly rewarding experience but can sometimes be tremendously expensive. 

For many parents, one of their biggest expenses is childcare. No parent should have to feel like they’re sacrificing rent or other basic necessities just to ensure the safety and well-being of their children, yet the rising cost of childcare means this situation is becoming increasingly common for countless families around the country. 

So why exactly are childcare services so expensive? This blog post will look at the childcare industry and early childhood education to advocate for affordable childcare for everyone.

So, Why Is Childcare So Expensive?

a child care worker attending to little kids

The pandemic has had devastating effects on almost every aspect of life. A recent study by ReadyNation demonstrates that one of its most damaging repercussions is the massive economic strain it has put on families with infants and toddlers. 

The COVID-19 crisis and insufficient policy action have now driven the cost of America’s infant-toddler child care crisis to $122 billion yearly in lost earnings, productivity, and revenue—more than double the pre-pandemic number.

This staggering amount hits working parents, their employers, and taxpayers especially hard, so our nation needs to find ways to provide high-quality childcare for these vital age groups as soon as possible. Many daycare centers had to let go of child care workers just to offset expenses.

Aside from the pandemic, other factors contributing to the high child care cost include a lack of public funding, labor shortages, and an over-reliance on parents footing the bill. Because of these issues, the average cost of child care in the United States is often far higher than many families can afford.

With 63% of parents reporting that their child care expenses have gone up over the past year, it’s no wonder more and more families are struggling to keep up with the cost. 

The stress of managing these added costs even has some parents wondering if they’ll be able to afford these essential services and whether they’ll have to make difficult lifestyle changes. Although the situation has become unmanageable for many families, options may still be available to help offset such expensive bills.

Single mother Tori Snyder is familiar with the challenge of keeping a small business running while managing child care. Testifying in front of the House Ways and Means Committee, she called for the government to take action on making child care more affordable and accessible. This would make an enormous difference for single-parent households that often struggle to find adequate child care that doesn’t break the bank.

With modern parents facing more demands than ever, it’s time for our governments to recognize how important supporting this kind of infrastructure is for individuals and entire economies in general. Ensuring parents can work without worrying about their children could be a major boon to society.

Aside from the things mentioned above, the following are also factors that can contribute to more expensive child care:

1. Unideal Caregiver-to-Child Ratio Regulations

One of the primary reasons why child care is so expensive is due to governments imposing unideal caregiver-to-child ratio regulations. To ensure a childcare facility is safe and well monitored, they insist each child must have enough attention from a caregiver.

However, in doing so, governments often overestimate the number of caregivers needed, meaning child care centers need more people at higher wages than would be necessary if the ratio was more realistic.

This means families pay for much-needed childcare, but their hard-earned money goes into paying for people who aren’t necessarily required. There should be a better balance between ensuring safety and creating regulations that don’t unnecessarily burden families financially.

2. Location

Another factor driving up the prices of childcare services is location. In urban areas, childcare costs can be double or even triple of those found in more rural locations, and the reality is that most jobs are located in more urban areas. Parents must then factor in higher transportation costs to and from a rural day care, often too much to make it feasible.

Additionally, in suburban areas where the cost of living is already high for many families, there’s even less opportunity for parents to stretch their dollars when finding quality care for their kids. With all of this said, when looking at childcare options, it’s important to consider these variable prices based on location and determine what is best for your caregivers and your wallet.

3. Complex Regulations and Legal Counsel

It takes a lot of knowledge, paperwork, and overall effort to create, manage, and maintain a safe learning space, which often requires professional help. In addition, in certain states and countries, the laws dictating childcare can differ per county or city. This adds an extra layer of complexity to managing a business.

So while it may seem like caregivers are overcharging for their services, they, too, have to cover fees associated with staying up-to-date on legislation changes so they can ensure the safety and quality of their services.

Understanding the Childcare Supply Crisis

smiling childcare worker teaching a boy

The childcare market is failing under the pressure of its primary funding source: parents. Unlike the education system, which provides many families with public or private loans and investments to fund higher learning, childcare requires immediate out-of-pocket payments without additional aid.

Understandably, parents find it hard to come up with the money when they are already struggling to balance their other expenses and lower income. This means that when prices start climbing too high, families turn to other methods like withdrawing one parent from the workforce completely to take on that role themselves.

It’s a tough predicament for so many families, but it’s just one example of how financially difficult quality childcare can be in our current economy.

Impact on Childcare Providers

The challenge for childcare providers is a difficult one. Not only must they try to keep prices in check for families, but they also have to think about their living wage and those of their employees. Sadly, the average wage for a US childcare provider is currently just $13.22 an hour, or $27,490 per year—not enough to make ends meet in many areas.

As a result, smaller home providers have been forced to close, and surviving ones have had trouble hiring new staff. This dilemma has frustrated many parents due to limited options and inconsistent quality of care.

What’s more worrying is that such low wages are unsustainable in the long term, yet this appears to be the system we’re stuck with until more changes come into play.

What Are the Impacts of Rising Cost of Childcare?

child care centers

As the cost of childcare continues to rise, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for parents, especially working moms, to stay in the workplace. With almost two-thirds of parents with young children reporting lateness or absences because of childcare problems, employers also feel the pinch as decreased productivity, and frequent disruptions take their toll.

This has a particularly strong impact on primary caregivers: more than one quarter have been reprimanded, and nearly one quarter have even been fired. The damage being done is significant; families are losing $78 billion per year in forgone earnings and job search expenses due to decreasing work commitment caused by difficulties finding affordable childcare options.

As if employers weren’t already dealing with enough problems in today’s workforce, many face a costly $23 billion annually because of childcare issues. Not only does this economic burden hurt businesses and, ultimately, the economy, but it also costs taxpayers $21 billion each year in lower tax revenue.

Unfortunately, though, the biggest impact is on children. Without access to quality, affordable childcare, young kids don’t receive the nurturing and stimulating environment they need for healthy brain development.

This means that their future selves enter the workforce at a disadvantage—and we, as a society, suffer for it in the long run. It’s no wonder, then, that so many working parents said they find it difficult to access proper childcare while over half described it as a significant challenge.

The pandemic has worsened the childcare industry’s struggles, with the workforce down by over 7%. It’s a catch-22 for parents; many turn to childcare options to remain employed, yet those options cannot pay their workers competitive salaries and keep costs low. As a result, undervalued child care workers, often women of color, are paid wages that don’t even meet poverty levels.

This issue is compounded by many employees leaving their positions in the industry for better opportunities elsewhere where they can earn more money and feel less stressed. It’s a shame that this system favors employers over employees who perform such an important job for our society.

Melissa Boteach of the National Women’s Law Center said, “You can make more working in retail or restaurants than caring for our most precious resource: our children. We can’t pay childcare workers more because then you’re charging parents more and so absent new public dollars, it’s difficult to attract and retain a workforce.”

How Will Affordable Child Care Help the Country?

day care workers watching over children

Based on the current situation, it’s clear that making childcare more affordable is vital for improving the economy. Parents must have reliable, quality childcare options to stay employed and contribute to their communities.

This applies to not only individual families but also businesses since employers will benefit from a more productive workforce, leading to higher profits and an improved labor market. In the long run, society will benefit from a better-educated, healthier workforce.

Moreover, increased wages for workers in the childcare industry will help ensure that qualified professionals can stay and take on these roles. This could mean that children have consistent caregivers who can provide them with the best possible care in terms of guidance, stability, and education, providing them with the best possible environment to thrive in.

Ultimately, affordable childcare is essential to ensure that our families and businesses are supported while helping children reach their full potential and ensuring a brighter future for all. By taking action now, we can create a better world not just today but also for generations to come.

What Age Group Is Childcare Most Expensive For?

Childcare is most expensive for infants and toddlers who need more time and attention, with their caregivers typically earning a lower hourly rate than those caring for preschoolers or school-aged children. In fact, on average, infant care can cost up to twice as much as other forms of childcare, making it especially difficult for families on tight budgets.

However, it’s important to note that the cost of childcare is increasing across all age groups as more and more parents have to turn to professional care due to changes in the job market. This means that households with older children can also find themselves struggling with rising cost of childcare.

What Can Be Done to Make Childcare More Affordable?

Fortunately, some measures can be implemented to make childcare more attainable. These include:

1. Increasing Public Funding for Childcare Programs

While this is easier said than done, there is no denying that more funding from the government is needed. This can take the form of direct subsidies to families and tax deductions or credits, which will help make childcare more affordable. If done correctly, this can ensure families can access quality childcare services without worrying about the cost.

2. Investing in Quality Childcare Facilities

For parents to trust childcare providers, there needs to be a focus on providing quality facilities and infrastructure. This includes ensuring that safety regulations are strictly enforced, providing adequate training for workers, and ensuring appropriate wages are paid.

3. Providing Incentives to Increase the Childcare Workforce

There need to be more incentives to attract more qualified individuals into the industry, such as higher salaries, better benefits, job security, and career development opportunities. This will help ensure that child care professionals can make a decent living while providing quality services.

4. Improving Access to Flexible Child Care Solutions

Finally, there needs to be an effort to make childcare more flexible. This could include implementing policies that allow parents increased access to affordable and reliable after-school programs and weekend/evening care.

By taking a multifaceted approach to the issue, it is possible to make childcare more affordable and accessible for everyone. Investing in our children today will create an even brighter future tomorrow.


It’s clear that if we want to ensure a prosperous future, we must make childcare more affordable. This can be accomplished by increasing public funding, investing in quality facilities, providing incentives for workers, and promoting flexible childcare solutions.

Every family deserves access to quality childcare, and through collective action and dedication, it is possible to create an environment where everyone can thrive.

Frequently Asked Questions

What age group is childcare most expensive for?

Child care is most expensive for infants and toddlers who need more time and attention, with their caregivers typically earning a lower hourly rate than those caring for preschoolers or school-aged children.

What can be done to make childcare more affordable?

Measures that can be implemented to make childcare more attainable include increasing public funding for childcare programs, investing in quality childcare facilities, providing incentives to increase the childcare workforce, and improving access to flexible childcare solutions.

Why is childcare so expensive?

The cost of childcare is high due to various factors, including labor, rent or mortgage payments, insurance, materials and supplies, taxes, utilities, and more. Childcare professionals often have lower wages than other occupations requiring similar qualifications and experience.

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