Press Releases

The High Price of Child Care: Parents Are Often Forced to Choose Between Quality and Cost

October 4, 2007

ARLINGTON, VA - The National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) announces the release of Parents and the High Price of Child Care: 2007 Update. The report provides typical prices of child care for infants and for four-year-olds in centers and family child care homes nationwide.

Child care is a major household expense for parents of young children. The average price of full-time care for an infant in a licensed center can be as high as $14,650 a year. For a four-year-old in a licensed center, parents could pay up to $10,920. Family child care homes may be less expensive, but the costs still add up, with average prices for full-time care as high as $9,500 for an infant and $9,000 for a four-year-old.

The report ranks the 10 least affordable states for child care, based on the price of child care as a percentage of the state median income for a two-parent family. The ten least affordable states for full-time infant care in a center are: Wisconsin (where the price of infant care can be as high as 16.5% of family income), Massachusetts, Washington, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, New York, California, the District of Columbia, Oregon, and Illinois. The ten least affordable states for full-time care for a preschooler in a center are: Oregon (14.3% of family income), New York, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Washington, Montana, the District of Columbia, North Carolina, Maine and California.

The high price of child care also has an impact on the rest of the family budget. In every region of the United States, average child care fees for an infant in a center are higher than the average amount families spend on food. In nearly every state, child care fees for two children in a center exceed the median rent cost, and are nearly as high or even higher than the average monthly mortgage payment. Child care prices for families with two children are higher than the average monthly mortgage payment in ten states (Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming and the District of Columbia). In fact, child care costs more than higher education: In 43 states, the price of full-time infant care in a center is higher than tuition at a public college.

Licensed care is particularly unaffordable for single parents. In 48 states, the average price of care for two children (one preschooler and one infant) would be greater than 50 percent of the median household income for single parents.

Some families choose unlicensed care to save money, but because these settings are unregulated, there is no monitoring of their safety. Research has found that these unregulated care settings are of lower quality than licensed care.

In NACCRRA's 2006 focus groups with parents, most parents named the high cost of child care as one of their highest concerns. Many parents said that they had to choose a setting that was lower in quality, or make other compromises, just so they could afford the care. In a 2005 poll, most parents agreed that affordable child care was the most important factor in helping working families in today's economy. Most parents also agreed that the public should share the cost of providing quality child care, and agreed that public education money should be expanded to include younger children and help pay for improved quality in child care. In fact, parents favored increased public funding for higher-quality child care even if it meant an increase in taxes by $10-$50 a year.

"The cost of child care is out of reach for too many families," says Linda Smith, Executive Director of NACCRRA. "No parent should have to choose a poor-quality child care setting just because they cannot afford or find anything better for their child. It's time to increase our public investment in improving the quality of child care."

The report provides results from a 2007 survey of Child Care Resource & Referral (CCR&R) State Networks, which asked for the average 2006 prices charged by child care programs listed in CCR&R databases. Located in every state and most communities across the nation, CCR&Rs provide services to help connect parents with the child care that meets their needs and work with caregivers to help raise the quality of child care in their communities.

To access the full report, please visit NACCRRA's website: To find your local CCR&R, visit NACCRRA's Child Care Aware® website at

Parents and the High Price of Child Care - 2007 Update 14.79 MB
Brief Summary54 KB
State Affordability Table - Infant Care27.75 KB
State Affordability Table - Preschool26.97 KB