Child care issues keep an average of 15.5% of employees in Arkansas from going to work each year, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics – ranking in the bottom 7 of all states.
Nationwide, the U.S.’s infant-toddler child care shortages cost America’s economy $122 billion, more than double the $57 billion the same study found it was costing in 2018. And, a new report by the U.S. Department of Labor found that the cost of child care is untenable for families across all care types, age groups, and county population sizes.
WHY THIS MATTERS FOR ARKANSAS
- Most families with young children need child care in order to go to work. In Arkansas, 67% of children under six have all available parents in the workforce.
- But many families lack access to quality child care. In Arkansas alone, one-third of residents live in a “child care desert,” where there are not enough child care spots for the number of children under the age of five. This has only gotten worse in recent years, with nearly 16,000 child care providers nationwide closing their doors between December 2019 and March 2021.
- And too many families can’t afford the care they can find. The average price of center-based child care in Arkansas is $7,431 annually, putting many low- and middle-income families in the impossible position of being forced to choose between work and care. Since 1990, child care costs have risen 214%, with the price of care rising 25% in the last decade alone — twice as fast as other major expenses for consumers (like housing and groceries)
- This lack of care hurts working parents. In Arkansas, at least 15.5% of parents are missing work due to breakdowns in the child care system.
- And that hurts small business owners and local economies. The child care industry alone has an estimated impact of $702 million on Arkansas’ economy. In FFYF’s most recent poll, one out of three small businesses report multiple child care-rooted workforce problems in the past 12 months, leading to challenges in holding on to quality employees and growing their businesses.
The Solution: Investing in America’s child care system is a good move for Arkansas’ economy. Congress must come together to strengthen and invest in our federal early learning and care programs so that families can have access to reliable high-quality, affordable child care they depend on.