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Child care costs more in 2020, and the pandemic has parents scrambling for solutions

Child care costs more in 2020, and the pandemic has parents scrambling for solutions

Read the 2023 Cost of Care Report: This is what child care costs in 2023

According to a new survey, 63% of families are uncomfortable placing their children in day care as states reopen, and nearly half are more concerned about the cost of child care than they were pre-pandemic.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, a majority of American families struggled to find affordable child care and found themselves spending more of their household income on child care year after year. The pandemic has only compounded these issues for families, and the strain and pressure on parents is more profound than ever.

“The pandemic thrust our nation’s care crisis into the spotlight,” says Tim Allen, CEO of “Our economic recovery rests on people’s ability to get back to work, and for parents, that makes child care indispensable. But with social distancing, remote work and the closure of businesses that many parents rely on, a new dynamic of child care is quickly emerging, and if we don’t take action now to solve this child care crisis, there will be huge ramifications for all of us.”

New data from the COVID-19 Child Care Survey, which was sent out to assess the pandemic’s impact on child care, as well as the seventh annual Cost of Care Survey, highlights a stark reality for U.S. families. The survey results reveal the substantial financial, familial and professional impacts of child care and help clarify why child care maintains such a strong foothold in decision-making this election year. Here’s a look at some of the ways the pandemic and the rising cost of child care are having a significant impact.

What is the impact of COVID-19 on child care?

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a dramatic impact on child care in this country. Many parents have been hit by the financial devastation of job loss or pay cuts. Others are trying to work while caring for kids without their usual support, due to camp and day care closures or having to let go of in-home caregivers. 

In fact, when asked in the COVID-19 Child Care Survey to rate the impact of the pandemic on their child care on a scale of 1-10, the average rating was 6.9. Furthermore, 45% of parents surveyed rate the impact as an 8, 9 or 10 out of 10.

Only 7% of parents surveyed feel it is safe to return to a normal routine now, while a 52% majority don’t anticipate a return to normalcy until next year or until a vaccine is developed. That majority jumps to 63% for parents who describe the gravity of the crisis as either serious or severe in the area they live.

Here are some key findings from the COVID-19 Child Care Survey:

  • Child care choices will change: 63% of respondents who use day care say they are somewhat or very uncomfortable returning their children to day care as states reopen, and more than one-third (35%) of those are now considering in-home care instead.
  • Economic woes drive concerns: More than half (52%) of the parents surveyed say they anticipate that the cost of child care will be higher than before COVID-19, and nearly that many (47%) are more concerned about the cost of child care now than they were before the pandemic. 
  • Employers and the government need to step up: Nearly all parents surveyed (96%) say it is important for government and business leaders to provide additional financial support for child care as Americans transition out of quarantine.
  • Moms hit harder: For families with one or both parents working from home, 41% say mom has been doing the majority of extra child care work while working from home, compared to just 15% who say dad has done the majority. 

What is the cost of child care around the country?

According to the Cost of Care Survey, child care has become less affordable for families. Of parents surveyed, 72% say they spend 10% or more of their household income on child care, compared to 71% in 2019. And more than half of families (55%) report that they spend at least $10,000 per year on child care, which is more than the average annual cost of in-state college tuition ($9,410) per College Board.

According to data, weekly child care costs have risen significantly over the past six years. The average weekly child care cost for one infant child is $565 for a nanny, $215 for a day care center (also referred as a “child care center”) and $201 for a family care center.

Interactive: Use our Cost of Child Care Calculator to find the cost of different child care options near you.

Below are the 2019 national averages of weekly child care costs for each type of care, compared to costs six years ago.

National Average Weekly Rates*

Nanny$472$565+20% increase
After-School$181$243+34% increase
Child Care Center$186$215+16% increase
Family Care Center$127$201+58% increase
Au Pair$360$401+11% increase

 * All rates are for one infant child. 

** 2013 figures were based off the national data from Child Care Aware.

What are the most affordable states for child care in 2020?

Top five most affordable states to hire a nanny:***

  1. New Jersey
  2. Maryland
  3. Alaska
  4. Connecticut
  5. North Dakota

Top five most affordable states to use a child care center***

  1. North Dakota
  2. Utah
  3. Delaware
  4. New Jersey
  5. South Dakota

What are the least affordable states for child care in 2020?

Top five least affordable states to hire a nanny***

  1. Mississippi
  2. New Mexico
  3. Arkansas
  4. Arizona
  5. Florida

Top five least affordable states to use a child care center***

  1. Washington DC
  2. California
  3. Oregon
  4. New Mexico
  5. New York

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

What’s the impact on working parents?

The cost and limitations of child care affect many working parents both on a daily basis and in terms of their career decisions. Most of the working parents surveyed (60%) did not think the cost of child care would influence their career decisions, yet more than half (54%) have had to make workplace changes in order to afford it. When it comes to the daily impact on parents in the workplace, 71% say their job has been impacted because their child care plans fell through last minute. 

What impact does child care have on election decisions? 

Since the start of the 2020 campaign, child care has taken center stage as a major issue on both sides of the aisle. Candidates have proposed new legislation to lower costs, increase the supply of caregivers and incentivize businesses to help families with caregiving needs to remain in the workforce. Add in struggles intensified by the pandemic and we have the most alarming nationwide child care crisis yet. 

The survey findings make it clear that parents will be taking these concerns to the polls in November. According to the Cost of Care survey, 92% say child care is a topic they feel should get more attention from the government as a result of the pandemic, and 71% of families say child care policies will impact how they vote in the election in November.

What are some ways to reduce the cost of care? 

While 75% of parents surveyed found that child care costs were higher than they expected, it’s also a good time to make sure you are doing what you can to mitigate costs.


COVID-19 Child Care Survey methodology

This survey was conducted using the online survey platform Pollfish and compiled by DKC Analytics. The sample of 2000 adults (18 years or older) in the United States are all parents of children under 16 years-old who report paying for child care services. They were surveyed between May 20 and May 22, 2020. The margin of error is 2.23% and the sample was weighted for an even gender balance. Pollfish’s survey platform delivers online surveys globally through mobile apps and the mobile web along with the desktop web.

2020 Cost of Care Survey methodology

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 2020 Cost of Care Survey captured responses from 3,848 parents in the United States during the month of May 2020. Respondents were recruited from Weekly rates for a nanny are based on 2019 member data, child care center and family care center rates are based on rate information from centers listed on, and 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 in relation to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 American Community Survey that includes the state median family income of households with children.


Available in more than 20 countries, is the world’s leading platform for finding and managing high-quality family care. is designed to meet the evolving needs of today’s families and caregivers, offering everything from household tax and payroll services and customized corporate benefits packages covering the care needs of working families, to innovating new ways for caregivers to be paid and obtain professional benefits. Since 2007, families have relied on’s industry-leading products — from child and senior care to pet care and home care. is an IAC company (NASDAQ: IAC).

Previous Cost of Care surveys