Parents all across the nation work hard to afford luxury items for their families, like vacations to Disney World and presents under the Christmas tree. But for many families in America, the cost of daycare and even after-school childcare can seem like a luxury item too, especially when the cost is just as high. A recent study conducted by NPR shows that the cost of childcare forces parents to work even longer hours than normal — which is an unfortunate conundrum to have, given that they're using up time they'd otherwise be spending with their kids, outside of daycare.
The poll — conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health — found that more than 70 percent of parents believe that the cost of childcare is a somewhat or very serious problem. According to a study done by New America called the Care Index, over 12 million children under the age of 5 in the United States will need childcare every single day. Compounding that problem, according to New America, is that the average cost of full-time childcare in the United States for children ages 0-4 is $9,589 a year — which is more than the average cost of in-state college tuition, averaging around $9,410. Furthermore, the cost of full-time childcare in a child care center is 85 percent of the monthly U.S. median cost of rent.
These numbers are troubling. According to NPR, childcare is causing families to review their budgets and put home improvement projects and big ticket purchases on the back burner. And childcare is something that many people don't want to skimp on. High quality childcare — where children are constantly being engaged and learning new things in a personal environment — can be particularly expensive but worth it for some parents.
According to Bloomberg News, childcare is expensive for a variety of reasons (some mostly unknown). Childcare is not expensive because they're paying their workers more — according to Bloomberg News, childcare workers are among some of the lowest paid workers. Instead, childcare is potentially so expensive because of a lack of government funding or perhaps because quality childcare facilities might be charging families more money, simply because they see the demand and know that they can. But there isn't one particular theory or reason as to why parents are paying more.
So what can families do about it? According to the Care Index, there needs to be a change in policy that emphasizes things like universal paid family leave, expanding and improving cash assistance programs, and implementing high quality universal pre-K programs. These things will make high quality care more accessible and affordable for all families. However, until state and national government take these steps to make a change, NPR recommends that families develop a plan for how they are going to afford childcare — from developing monthly budgets to making a plan and sticking with it.
For many parents, the cost of childcare and increasing work hours will continue to replace traditional "luxury" expenses like vacations with their kids for the foreseeable future. The reality of the situation is all too real, and for most American families, it doesn't look like things will shift any time soon.