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: ‘We’ve not only failed to make progress as a country, we’ve actually gone backwards’: As parents return to the office, they face rising childcare costs

As they prepare to return to the office, parents are struggling with one more rising cost on top of groceries and gas: childcare.

The average price to send one child to a childcare center in 2021 rose 5% to $226 per week, up from $215 in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an annual survey by Care.com, an online platform for finding family care. 

Meanwhile, it cost $694 per week for a nanny in 2021, up 23% from $565 per week in 2019, while average national weekly babysitter rates were $261 last year, up 7% from pre-pandemic, the survey, released Wednesday, found. 

“When it comes to childcare, there are three critical criteria —  cost, quality and availability — and based on our research findings, we’ve not only failed to make progress as a country, we’ve actually gone backwards,” said Natalie Mayslich, president of the consumer side of Care.com. 

Some places are more expensive than others. Washington D.C. is the most expensive area for childcare or a nanny — on average, it costs $419 per week for care at a childcare center, and $855 for a nanny — that’s 85% and 23% respectively above the national average.

Washington state and Massachusetts are among the most expensive states for childcare. It costs at least $300 per week for a childcare center for one child, and $830 per week for a nanny for one child in those two states. 

Childcare costs outpace inflation

The increase in childcare costs between 2019 and 2020 surpassed the annual rate of inflation. At the same time, almost half of parents said it was harder to find childcare services. Almost 16,000 childcare providers shut down between December 2019 and March 2021, according to a Child Care Aware survey

In fact, the average cost of daycare for infants now exceeds in-state college tuition fees, that Child Care Aware survey found. The average annual cost of daycare for infants hit just over $12,300 in 2020, an increase of $1,000 over the prior year. 

In three out of four regions in the U.S. the annual price of daycare for an infant exceeds the cost of housing, the Child Care Aware report found. (The West is the only region where child care doesn’t cost more than housing.)

In all four regions, the annual price of child care is more than the annual cost of in-state tuition at a public four-year university. (Public in-state tuition ranges from $9,702 in the South to $13,878 in the Northeast.) 

Families are already dealing with an increase in grocery prices: they rose 12% from May 2021 to May 2022, according to the May consumer price index. A third of respondents in the Care.com survey said they are thinking about taking up a second job to help support their families. 

With financial pressures mounting, parents reported that they are trimming spending in other areas. Two-thirds of respondents told Care.com they manage to stay within or under their budget, but over half of those polled said they have cut back on vacations, as well as their family’s leisure activities. 

However, the report also suggested that parents are not utilizing all of the potential government benefits available to them. One example is the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, which saves parents $600 for one child and $1,200 for two children. Around a third of the parents surveyed said they did not claim the credit and four in 10 parents said they were unaware of it. 

“Costs are growing while availability is shrinking and that’s having a profound impact on the workforce and consumer spending,” Mayslich said. “We’ve all seen what happens when parents can’t work; making childcare more affordable and accessible has to be a priority for all.”

(Leslie Albrecht contributed to this report.)

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