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National Child Care Analysis Finds Troubling Trends Continued in 2023

Resource July 2, 2024

Child Care Aware of America (CCAoA) recently published Child Care at a Standstill: Price and Landscape Analysis, an annual report assessing the national, state, and regional trends in child care.

The newest edition analyzes the supply, affordability, and price of child care in 2023. The report also assesses factors like inflation and the lingering impact of the pandemic. Data indicate that quality child care centers and family child care (FCC) homes are still out-of-reach for many families across the country.

Quality child care promotes early learning and enables families to work or pursue higher education or training, which strengthens businesses and boosts the economy. Yet, lack of access and affordability continue to plague the child care field. 

The number of child care centers has returned to pre-pandemic numbers, but the number of FCC homes has decreased since 2022. The national average price of child care in 2023 was $11,582. This is equivalent to 10% of a married couple with children’s median household income and 32% of a single parent with children’s median household income, despite the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services setting 7% of annual income as the benchmark for affordable child care. The average American family is forced to spend a significant portion of their income on child care, or forgo income and stop working to provide child care themselves. 

CCAoA found that the average annual price of child care in 2023 was comparable to average annual mortgage and rent payments. In all 50 states and DC, the price of center-based care for two children was more expensive than average annual rent payments. In 45 states and DC, the average annual price exceeded annual mortgage payments by 1% to 64%. Overall, it was more costly to send two children to child care centers than it was to pay for housing, demonstrating  the urgent need to lower costs. 

CCAoA provided multiple recommendations to improve child care access and affordability. CCAoA urges Congress, state governments, and decision makers across the country to:

  1. Increase and expand sustainable funding so states can:
    1. Provide more families with subsidies
    2. Lower the price of child care
    3. Support and retain the child care workforce
    4. Increase access and supply
  1. Build the supply of high-quality, affordable child care by:
    1. Offering grants to providers
    2. Investing in workforce wages, benefits, and professional development

The pandemic revealed how critical child care is for the well-being and economic security of children, families, and communities. High-quality care promotes early learning and development, while also supporting caregivers who are working, training, or pursuing an education. The data in this report provides essential insights to the child care landscape that can allow policymakers to make more informed decisions on how to improve access to quality, affordable care.

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