There is an abundance of evidence on how the current economy, with inflation and global supply chain challenges, is pricing average American families out of essential goods and services. Yet amidst headlines about surging gas prices, food costs, and rent, the high cost of child care is often overlooked.
Child care has historically been one of the most unaffordable expenses for families, with its price tag growing considerably faster than other essential family expenses. Child care prices have more than doubled since they were first recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 1990. Even with recent, drastic increases, surges in the costs of food and gas still pale in comparison to child care.
Making matters worse, the child care sector is not immune to the impact of the pandemic, inflation, or supply chain challenges. Child care providers must now also shoulder rising costs of supplies. And despite providers’ best efforts to keep prices low—making less-than-living wages, earning razor-thin margins—families are still feeling the rising prices. In one recent survey, more than 60% of parents said child care has gotten more expensive over the past year, and more than 40% of parents said child care is much harder to find. Deepening concerns about the affordability and availability of quality child care have driven parents to take on second jobs, reduce hours at work, switch jobs, or leave the workforce entirely.
As lawmakers and officials prioritize efforts to make life more affordable for everyday Americans, child care can and should be part of the solution. Congress and the Administration must carefully consider the various proposals being considered that could safeguard child care supply and lower costs for families and providers, including the reauthorization of the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program and provisions to be included in major funding packages.