You’ll Spend More on Your Infant’s Child Care Than a Family of Four Will Spend on Food

Photo: Thinkstock / The Bump
Photo: Thinkstock / The Bump

If I were to tell you that childcare costs for your kid would run you higher than it would to feed a family of four, you’d laugh in my face, wouldn’t you? Yes, you would. And the bad news is: You shouldn’t.

A report released three days ago revealed something that should make us all a little bit sad: Childcare costs have increase so dramatically that paying your nanny or daycare for a month — for one child — is more expensive than the average costs of food for a family of four (Oreos, excluded). In the “Parents and the High Cost of Child Care” report, Child Care Aware of America, a federal informational resource for parents and childcare providers, examined child care center expenses — excluding nannies, relatives and babysitters as your child’s care provider. The data, though it did open an eye to the extraordinary disparity between costs by state, showed that increases in costs for childcare are occurring more rapidly than women and men in the workplace are getting raises.

Ready for what the data revealed?:

It’s $11,567 more expensive to send your infant to child care in Massachusetts — which will run you $16,430 per year — than it is in Mississippi, which will only cost you $4,863 per year. And that wasn’t the only ouchie. For families with two children, the cost of child care was more than housing costs for homeowners with a mortgage in 20 states. Translation: Finding care for your two kids is more expensive than buying a home and paying it off in 20 different states. For two kids a child care center, you’d pay more than you would in the whole country for rent. And lastly, the annual average cost for an infant in center-based care is higher than a year’s tuition (plus fees!) at a four-year public college.

Lynette M. Fraga, executive director of Child Care Aware of America said in a statement following the institute’s release that, “Child care is a major expense in family budgets, often exceeding the cost of housing, college tuition, transportation or food. Unlike all other areas of education investment, including higher education, families pay the majority of costs for early education. These expenses come at a time when young families can least afford them.”

She went on to add that instead of bullying the research and dismissing it as inaccurate (because, really, how the hell could costs ever soar so high just to make sure your kid is being cared for while you’re working?), parents should focus their attention (and their frustrations) on their lawmakers. “Eleven million children younger than age 5 are in some form of child care,” Fraga said. “Ensuring this care is high-quality, affordable and available for families is crucial to our nation’s ability to produce and sustain an economically viable, competitively positioned workforce. Thanks to several federal policy proposals before Congress and other federal agencies, we are on the cusp of great leaps toward improving child care in this country.”

And while it’s really great that we’re on the “cusp” of doing something so great, the collective sigh from parents with no choice but to sacrifice more than just a little of their savings each week should speak loud and clear about the pace we’re moving at. Don’t hear it? Here’s a hint: It’s screaming Can’t we get there faster?

Moms, dads: What do you think should be done about the high price of child care?

Plus, more from The Bump:

Differences Between a Nanny and Daycare?

How to Find the Best Nanny for Your Family

Nanny Training Basics?