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Nearly 1 in 3 Families Spend At Least 20% of Household Income on Child Care

But Over 80% of Families Say Their Child Care Plan is Worth the Money

WALTHAM, MA (July 12, 2017) – According to the Care.com 2017 Cost of Care Survey, 32% of families spend 20% or more of their annual household income on child care. Despite high child care costs, a majority of families (81%) say their current child care plan is worth the money. The fourth annual survey from Care.com (NYSE: CRCM; www.care.com), the world’s largest online destination for finding and managing family care, also found that families are increasingly recognizing the need to budget for child care (72% in 2017, compared to 58% in 2014).

“With heightened awareness of child care costs, parents are rightfully budgeting for baby more than ever before,” said Robyn Wentzel-Freeman, data analyst at Care.com. “However, even with this preparation, the Care.com 2017 Cost of Care Survey found that high child care costs still challenge families financially, emotionally, and in the workplace.”


Annual Child Care Costs: 32% of families spend 20% or more of their household income on child care; 48% spend more than 10% of their income on child care.

National Average Weekly Rates*:

*all rates are for one infant child, except for After School Sitter, which is not age limited.

Top 5 Most Affordable States for a Nanny*

Top 5 Least Affordable States for a Nanny*

  1. New Hampshire
  2. New Jersey
  3. Maryland
  4. Connecticut
  5. North Dakota
  1. Mississippi
  2. New Mexico
  3. Arkansas
  4. West Virginia
  5. Alabama

Top 5 Most Affordable States for a Child Care Center*

Top 5 Least Affordable States for a Child Care Center*

  1. North Dakota
  2. Utah
  3. Delaware
  4. Arkansas
  5. New Jersey
  1. District of Columbia
  2. Oregon
  3. California
  4. Alaska
  5. New York

*Based on the average cost of care for one child in relation to the state median family income among households with children.


How Prepared Are Families for Child Care Costs?

Families are doing more to prepare for child care costs – one of their biggest expenses – with 72% now budgeting for child care, an increase from 58% in 2014. However, families still struggle with the realities of expenses. Thirty percent of parents who set up a monthly “family budget” for overall expenses (e.g. education, clothing and extracurricular activities) are rarely or never able to stay within their family budget, and 69% go over by $100 or more per month.

What Extras Will Parents Pay More For?

While more than half of parents (52%) say they spend too much on child care, they’re still willing to pay more for caregivers with additional skills, education, and services. A majority of parents would be willing to pay more for nannies and au pairs with an early education degree (72%), certification in CPR or First Aid (67%), multilingual skills and the ability to teach their children other languages (64%), a college degree (58%), or organic cooking skills (54%). At child care centers and schools, parents would pay more for a lower student/teacher ratio (77%), more variety in classes (70%), a video camera to check in on children (69%), a driver or concierge to pick up and drop off their children (68%), better technology to communicate with families (60%), or organic food (53%).

Overall, How Much do Parents Spend on Their Children?

From child care and education to clothing and extracurricular activities, 30% of parents say they spend $25,000 or more annually on each child. More than half of parents (59%) don’t know how much they spend on their children each year; however, this is an improvement from 2016, where 71% said they were unaware of overall spend.

What’s the Emotional and Financial Toll of Child Care Costs?

Approximately 1 in 3 parents (32%) would put themselves in debt — or further in debt — to pay for child care, an increase from 25% in 2016. Forty percent say child care costs cause tension in their relationship with their partner. The cost of child care is also influencing family planning decisions. One in 5 families (20%) say they had fewer children than they would have liked because of the cost of child care, and 17% say they waited longer to have children. Nevertheless, 81% still feel their current child care plan is worth the money.

How Does Child Care Influence Career Decisions?

Prior to having children, approximately 3 out of 4 people (76%) said they didn’t think child care costs would influence their career decisions. Yet nearly 2 out of 3 parents (63%) stated that child care costs did indeed influence their career, with 33% changing jobs to increase take-home pay, 27% asking for a more flexible work schedule, and 23% downshifting to a part-time schedule or becoming a stay-at-home parent to save money on child care. Approximately 1 in 4 parents (26%) who decided to downshift to part-time work or leave the workforce entirely walked away from annual incomes of $50,000 or more. In hindsight, approximately 1 in 5 parents (21%) say they wouldn’t have made the same career decisions.

Can Employers Help Working Parents and Their Companies?

Nearly half of working parents (44%) say their employer seems to care about their child care needs, yet the need for employer support is real. An overwhelming majority of working parents (85%) wish their employer offered child care benefits, such as discounted child care and access to back up child care. This type of support would be meaningful for both parents and employers, as nearly 3 in 4 working parents (73%) say their job has been affected because their child care plans fell through last-minute. The use of a sick day (64%) and being late to work (54%) were the top two ways their job was affected.

“It’s clear from the Care.com 2017 Cost of Care Survey that working parents continue to struggle balancing care and work,” said Ben Robinson, Global VP of Sales & Account Management for Care For Business, Care.com’s enterprise solution for helping companies support their working families. “It’s important that companies today address their workforce’s parental responsibilities and offer family care benefits, especially if they want to compete for and retain the best talent. Fifty-two percent of parents surveyed feel that workplaces should provide benefits to support working families. Whether it’s a flexible work arrangement or subsidized back up child care, these benefits should reflect the way today’s parents work.”

What Can Parents Do to Reduce the Cost of Care?

There are ways families can mitigate the cost of child care. To get a sense of how much they can afford to spend on child care, parents can find free, interactive tools to discover local nanny rates and nanny tax calculators. Opening a Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account (FSA), offered by many employers, is also one method families can save thousands of dollars each year on child care. Yet, 1 in 3 parents aren’t aware of this cost-cutting tactic.

How Do Parents Feel About the Country’s Cost of Care?

Even having budgets and contributing to Dependent Care FSAs, families feel they need more help. More than 2 out of 3 families (68%) say the tax deduction received from a Dependent Care FSA isn’t enough to have a meaningful impact. Fifty-three percent say American culture doesn’t do enough to support working parents when it comes to the cost of care, and 47% say they wish the United States subsidized child care costs as some other countries do. As families look to Congress to make changes in this area, the top two words that best describe how parents feel about how much they spend on their children each year are “necessary” and “stretched.”

About the Care.com 2017 Cost of Care Data

The Cost of Care Survey is an annual survey to measure the relative cost of care in the U.S. and how care impacts families’ budgets and employment. The Care.com 2017 Cost of Care Survey captured responses from more than 1,100 parents in the United States during the month of May 2017. Respondents were recruited from Care.com.

Weekly rates for child care costs are based on Care.com 2016 member data, with the exception of au pair rates, which are based on data from Cultural Care Au Pair, Au Pair in America, and Au Pair Care. Affordability rankings are calculated based on the average cost of care for one child in relation to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey that includes both married and single parent households with children.

For more information about the survey, sources, a video about the survey findings, or to learn helpful tips on saving, visit Care.com/costofcare. Employers can also find helpful tips on how to best support their working families at workplace.care.com/costofcare.

About Care.com

Since launching in 2007, Care.com (NYSE: CRCM) has been committed to solving the complex care challenges that impact families, caregivers, employers, and care service companies. Today, Care.com is the world’s largest online destination for finding and managing family care, with 13.6 million families and 10.4 million caregivers* across more than 20 countries, including the U.S., UK, Canada and parts of Western Europe, and approximately 1.2 million employees of corporate clients having access to our services. Spanning child care to senior care, pet care, housekeeping and more, Care.com provides a sweeping array of services for families and caregivers to find, manage and pay for care or find employment. These include a comprehensive suite of safety tools and resources members may use to help make more informed hiring decisions, such as third-party background check services, monitored messaging, and tips on hiring best practices; easy ways for caregivers to be paid online or via mobile app; and Care.com Benefits, including the household payroll and tax services provided by Care.com HomePay and the Care Benefit Bucks program, a peer-to-peer pooled, portable benefits platform funded by household employer contributions which provides caregivers access to professional benefits. For enterprise clients, Care.com builds customized benefits packages covering child care, back up care, and senior care consulting services through its Care For Business business, and serves care businesses with marketing and recruiting support. To connect families further, Care.com acquired community platforms Big Tent and Kinsights in 2013 and 2015, respectively. Headquartered in Waltham, Massachusetts, Care.com has offices in Berlin, Austin, and the San Francisco Bay area.

*As of March 2017.

Press Contact:
Natasha Gavilanez
Public Relations Associate, Care.com