Press Releases

Report: Child Care Costs Continue to Rise Despite Economic Downturn

June 21, 2009

Report Finds Child Care Costs Exceed Food Costs and Other Household Expenses

Arlington, VA - According to a report released by the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) today entitled, Parents and the High Price of Child Care: 2009 Update, monthly child care costs exceed monthly food costs and the average cost of other household expenses. The report, which provides typical prices of child care for infants, 4-year-olds, and school-age children in centers and family child care homes nationwide, reveals that in every region, average monthly child care fees for an infant were higher than the amount that families spent on food each month. In every state, monthly child care fees for two children at any age exceeded the median rent cost, and were nearly as high, or even higher than, the average monthly mortgage payment.

Not only are monthly child care costs exceeding monthly household expenses, but child care costs are also exceeding the average rate of inflation. Over the course of a year, the average price of full-time center care for one infant and one 4-year-old child increased an average of 4.8 percent and 6.2 percent, respectively, far higher than the 3.8 percent cost of living increase estimated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  

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

According to the report, in 2008, the average price of full-time care for an infant in a center was as high as $15,895 a year. For a 4-year-old in a center, parents paid up to $11,680 a year for full-time care. Parents of school-age children paid up to $10,720 a year for part-time care in a center. Additionally, the report also found that average prices for full-time care in a family child care home were as much as $10,324 for infants, $9,805 for a 4-year-old, and $7,124 for a school-age child. While the report demonstrates that costs are lower for family child care homes, many of these providers are unlicensed, leaving the health and safety of children in these types of settings unknown.

"As a result of increasing child care costs and the current economy, some parents have been forced to remove their children from organized child care programs or licensed settings and place them in more informal settings," said Smith. "This means that the provider has not had a background check or training in health and safety practices or early childhood development, let alone training to foster age-appropriate activities. I am concerned that as a nation with school readiness as a national goal, there will be long-term implications for the next generation with regard to school success and future success."

Today, more than 11 million children under age 5 are in some type of child care arrangement every week while their parents work. On average, children of working mothers spend 36 hours every week in child care. Studies repeatedly have shown that high-quality child care - care that provides a loving, safe, stable and age-appropriate stimulating environment - helps children enter school ready to learn. Yet, less than 10 percent of the nation's child care is of high-quality, and can cost 30 percent more than other types of child care arrangements.

"The bottom line is that you get what you pay for," said Smith. "And today's economy only makes it that much harder for parents who are already struggling with the current cost of child care to afford the quality child care their children need and deserve."

In order to improve access to affordable, high-quality child care for all families, NACCRRA is calling on Congress to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), the primary public source of child care funds to states to help pay for child care and improve the quality of care. Reauthorization of CCDBG should include not only an increase in the amount of money to pay for child care slots, but also in the "quality set-aside," the amount of money that states use to improve the quality of care available to families.  Additionally, NACCRRA recommends providing resources for planning and developing child care capacity to increase the availability of child care options for working families; reducing barriers in the subsidy administration process that prevent families from accessing assistance; ensuring that public pre-kindergarten programs are designed to meet the child care needs of working families, and improving federal and state tax codes to help families at all income levels pay for care.

Parents and the High Price of Child Care: 2009 Update provides results from a 2009 survey of Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) State Networks, which asked for the average 2008 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 in 99.3 percent of inhabited zip codes. CCR&Rs work with parents to connect them with the child care that meets their needs and with caregivers to help raise the quality of child care in their communities.

To download a copy of the full report, please visit