Parents pay as much for child care as housing, college tuition. What's a person to do?



If you have two children in child care, you’re likely paying as much or more for their daytime care than you are for housing.

The cost of child care fees for two children in center-based care exceeds the cost of a mortgage in 35 states and the District of Columbia, according to the most recent data from Child Care Aware of America.

You’re also likely to spend as much on child care for a young child as you would to pay for a year at an in-state university.

Child care costs exceed $20,000 a year in 22 states, including Oregon, Colorado, Minnesota, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. Massachusetts parents paid the most, shelling out $34,381.  

The average cost of one year at a public university for an in-state student is $20,770, according to the College Board.

Keep in mind the college figure includes tuition, fees, room and board. Many child care centers don’t even provide lunch.

The average child care worker makes $22,290 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and wouldn’t be able to afford to send their own child to daycare without financial assistance.

So what's a person to do?

As a result, some people are choosing not to have kids, or to delay having them.

The worry that child care is too expensive was the No. 1 reason people said they’re delaying having kids or having fewer than their ideal number of children, according to a 2018 Morning Consult survey for The New York Times.

Some are working with employers to telecommute. Others are deciding to stay at home with the kids.

CNBC article offers several ways to help parents defray the high costs of child care:

  1. Flexible work arrangements – Ask your employer about working from home a few days a week so you don’t need full-time child care. You might want to start on a trial basis to see if the arrangement works for you.
  2. Share the costs – Splitting the costs of hiring a child care professional, or “nanny sharing,” might work if you know another family also in need of help.
  3. Use a flexible spending account – If your employer offers a flexible spending account, you can add pre-tax wages to it to pay for child care and preschool.  
  4. Become a caregiver yourself – If the cost of child care is on par with your salary, you might consider staying at home to care for your children. Do your research first to determine whether it makes sense in the long run, as the parent who stays home will lose out on 401(k) contributions and pause contributions to Social Security.

Child Care Aware has an interactive map that gives state-by-state resources, including links to find financial assistance for child care.