More than half — 59% — of parents say they’re more concerned about child care costs now than in years prior. That’s just one finding of many in the Care.com 2022 Cost of Care Survey that illustrate the uphill battle parents are facing when it comes to affording and accessing quality child care.
The world has changed immeasurably over the last two years due to the pandemic and economic struggles, and families have certainly felt the shift when it comes to the cost of child care. Making matters worse: Nearly 9,000 day cares closed in 37 states between December 2019 to March 2021, according to findings from a new 2022 survey by ChildCare Aware.
“When it comes to child care, there are three critical criteria – cost, quality and availability – and based on our research findings, we’ve not only failed to make progress as a country, we’ve actually gone backwards,” said Natalie Mayslich, President, Consumer, Care.com. “Costs are growing while availability is shrinking and that’s having a profound impact on the workforce and consumer spending. We’ve all seen what happens when parents can’t work; making child care more affordable and accessible has to be a priority for all.”
Key findings from the Care.com 2022 Cost of Care Survey
New data from the ninth annual Care.com 2022 Cost of Care Survey reveals:
- The cost of child care is higher for families in 2022. 51% of parents say they spend more than 20% of their household income on child care, and 72% of parents report spending 10% or more. This is up from 70%, according to Care.com data from pre-pandemic 2019, the most recent year that mirrors parents’ options today.
- Quality child care continues to be tough for parents to find. In fact, 43% of parents say it’s much harder to find child care over the past year.
- Parents continue to struggle to pay for child care. In fact, 59% are more concerned about child care costs now than in years prior, which is driving significant changes, such as taking on a second job (31%), reducing hours at work (26%), changing jobs (25%), and leaving the workforce entirely (21%), to foot the bill.
How much does child care cost?
The cost of child care is on the rise
Based on the 2022 Cost of Care Survey, child care is not in the affordable range for most families. Of parents surveyed, 72% say they are spending 10% or more of their household income on child care, with a majority (51%) spending more than 20% or more. Yet according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), child care is considered affordable when it costs families no more than 7% of their household income.
According to survey data, 63% report that child care is more expensive over the past year. The reasons parents say prices are skyrocketing include:
- Child care centers increased costs (46%).
- Inflation (41%).
- Child care centers taking fewer children (36%).
The cost of child care can exceed that of a college education
The survey also finds that more than half of families (58%) plan to spend more than $10,000 on child care this year, which is more than the average annual cost of in-state college tuition ($9,349) per EducationData.org.
Every type of child care is pricier than it was pre-pandemic
Overall, the average child care cost for one child in 2021 was $694/week for a nanny (up from $565/week in 2019), $226/week for a child care or day care center (up from $182/week) and $221/week for a family care center (up from $177/week).
Below are the 2021 national averages of weekly child care costs for each type of care, compared to costs in 2019.
National average weekly child care rates
|One child||One child||Two children||Two children|
|Child care center (toddler)||$226||$215||$429**||$409**|
|Family care center*||$221||$201||$420**||$382**|
*Rates for infant children.
**Rates for two children calculated by adding the weekly rate for one child and the weekly rate for the second child with a national average sibling discount of 10%.
What’s the impact of rising child care costs on parents?
More than half — 59% — of parents say they’re more concerned about child care costs now than in years prior. The good news is that the majority (68%) budget for child care costs and nearly two-thirds (65%) say they will stay within or under budget.
Parents are cutting back on essentials
In turn, parents are making sacrifices to afford care and cutting back on budgets for:
- Vacations and travel (51%).
- Leisure activities (51%).
- Food, dining (45%).
- Clothing (41%).
- Extracurriculars (37%).
They’re also overhauling their work — and personal — lives
Many also plan to make the following work changes to adhere to rising care costs:
- 31% are considering taking on a second job.
- 26% are reducing hours at work.
- 25% are changing jobs.
- 21% leaving the workforce entirely.
Survey respondents are also adjusting their family plans to stay on track financially. 35% say they’re less likely to have more children with 43% listing the rising cost of child care as a major reason why.
How accessible is quality child care?
Parents say it’s harder to find child care providers than it was last year
Almost half of parents surveyed — 43% — say it’s much harder to find child care providers over the past year. According to our survey:
- 40% are having trouble finding a nanny.
- 39% are struggling to get care through a family care center.
- 37% find it challenging to book a babysitter.
- 36% are facing an uphill battle with finding a quality day care.
Child care providers are pricier to come by in some areas
Depending on where families live, the cost of hiring a nanny or paying for a day care can well exceed the national average. For example, in the District of Columbia, the cost of a nanny ($855 a week) is 23% above the national average, and the cost of day care ($419 a week) is 85% above the national average.
These are the priciest places to live if you’re hiring a nanny or sending kids to day care:
Top 10 most expensive states for hiring a nanny
|State||Weekly Rate||$ Above National Avg||% Above National Avg|
|1. District of Columbia|
|7. New York||$736||$42||6%|
|9. New Jersey||$715||$21||3%|
Top 10 most expensive states for day care
|State||Weekly Rate||$ Above National Avg||% Above National Avg|
|1. District of Columbia||$419||$193||85%|
|6. New York||$258||$32||14%|
How can you save money on child care?
As the cost of child care continues to rise, consider these steps to make the expense more affordable.
Find the best care for your budget
Once you’re clear on what you can afford, you can steer toward the child care option that’s the best fit for your family. The first step: Research current rates in your area. Care.com has free interactive tools you can use to identify the average costs of full-time child care, nanny and babysitter rates and nanny taxes in your region.
Discuss care benefits with your employer
Whether you’re hoping to find backup child or adult care or utilize paid family leave, it can pay to investigate whether or not your employer offers family care benefits. And if they don’t, ask for them.
It’s quite possible that they’ll be open to the idea now more than ever. Due to the pandemic, 57% of employers are prioritizing child care benefits more this year, and 63% said they plan to increase their company’s already existing child care benefits, according to Care.com’s 2021 Future of Benefits Report.
Set aside pre-tax dollars to pay for care
Talk to your workplace Human Resources department to see if a Dependent Care Account (a type of flexible spending account, or FSA) is available to you and how you can get started. With this account, you can put aside up to $5,000 in pre-tax dollars in your Dependent Care Account to pay for dependent care expenses. (Generally, only one spouse can enroll.)
The savings you will ultimately see varies depending on what your marginal tax rate is. A good approximation is around $2,000 in tax savings, assuming the family uses the full $5,000.
Make the most of tax breaks and credits
By paying your caregiver on the books, you can take advantage of tax breaks and credits. For example, by itemizing care-related expenses on your federal income return, you could receive a Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit on up to $600 of care-related expenses if you have one child, or $1,200 of care-related expenses if you have two or more children.
This year’s Cost of Care survey concluded that just over 1/3 of parents (34%) did not claim the expanded child care tax credit on their 2021 taxes, and 43% say that’s because they were unaware of it.
In addition, parents can save $2,000 per child using the Child Tax Credit.
Research child care subsidies and programs
Depending on your income, employee benefits and other factors, your family might qualify for a variety of cost-cutting child care subsidies. We’ve rounded up various programs, resources and other options that could reduce how much you’re paying for quality care.
Join Care for free
2022 Cost of Care Survey methodology
This scientific sample of 3,003 US adults (18 years or older) who are all parents paying for professional child care was surveyed between March 24, 2022, and March 30, 2022. All respondents are parents of children 14 years or younger and currently pay for professional child care, confirmed by both consumer-matched data and self-confirmation. DKC Analytics conducted and analyzed this survey with a sample procured using the Pollfish survey delivery platform, which delivers online surveys globally through mobile apps and the mobile web along with the desktop web. No post-stratification has been applied to the results.
Previous Care.com Cost of Care surveys
- The Care.com Cost of Child Care Survey: 2021 Report
- The Care.com Cost of Child Care and COVID-19 Child Care Surveys: 2020 Report
- The Care.com Cost of Child Care Survey: 2019 Report
- The Care.com Cost of Child Care Survey: 2018 Report
- The Care.com Cost of Child Care Survey: 2017 Report
- The Care.com Cost of Child Care Survey: 2016 Report
- The Care.com Cost of Child Care Survey: 2015 Report
- The Care.com Cost of Child Care Survey: 2014 Report