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IN CONTEXT: Child Care Costs Surpass Other Major Family Expenses

Resource January 23, 2024

We’ve all heard that families with young children in the United States today are struggling to afford child care. Now we know just how tough it really is.

According to a new report from, nearly half (47%) of all parents spend up to $18,000 a year on their child care expenses, while 20% say they spend more than $36,000 in a year. 

First Five Years Fund has put that into context. On average, one out of 5 families spends $36,000 on child care in a year.

  • That’s almost $12,000 higher than the average cost of attendance for a public four-year in a state university, including all tuition, fees and room and board (which the Department of Education reports is $24,030.)
  • It’s more than double the national average cost of rent in the United States (which, according to Forbes, is $16,464.)
  • It’s almost six times more expensive than the average used car payment (which Nerd Wallet tells us is $6,396 a year.)
  • And five times higher than the national average cost of your basic utilities for a year, when you add up gas, water, internet, cell phone, and electricity (which together are about $6,888 for the year, according to BankRate.)

As FFYF Executive Director Sarah Rittling said, “Child care is one of the largest expenses most families with young children face. As a nation, we simply lack enough affordable, quality child care options for families. This leads to enormous financial strain and has a negative impact on parents, young children, and employers. Congress must take every opportunity to make it more accessible and affordable for families.”

This puts an incredible amount of stress on working parents. Many work fewer hours. Many drop out of the workforce. Many burn through their savings. This pressure has an impact on parents, their children, employers, and the economy.

Congress has the power to help. Contact your lawmakers TODAY!

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