A 2004 study, adjusted for inflation, found that career-related parent absenteeism can cost businesses $4.4 billion, and those costs have only risen since. Cost of child care has risen 7.5 percent on the year, according to Child Care Aware of America. They found care costs outpace all other family expenses.
Today, a family making $87,000 annually will have to devote 10.6 percent of their money to child care. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends those costs not exceed 7 percent. But for single parents the situation is far worse — up to 37 percent of their income goes to child care.
College tuition, rightly, is characterized as outrageously expensive, but in most of the country care for children while parents are at work costs more than college tuition. In Washington, DC the cost of infant care in particular is almost four times the cost of public college tuition and fees.
Costs also are rapidly reaching the cost of rent.
“Parents are in crisis,” said Senior Director of Research Dionne Dobbins of Child Care Aware. “Unaffordability has remained the same from year to year. We know wages have pretty much remained stagnant.”
And there are impacts beyond just financial concerns. Without access to early childhood education or care, one parent typically has to drop out of the workforce, which not only adversely affects lifetime earnings potential, but also poses significant challenges in re-entry into the workforce later. And because of social norms and pressures, this impacts women more often than men.
And sometimes, that’s the only option. Even with the exorbitant cost of child care, demand often outpaces availability. The result is “child care deserts,” where it can be nearly impossible to find somewhere to tend to a child while parents work.
Frustration and outrage over costs of care cross the political spectrum, being a rare unifier in today’s polarized political climate. Nearly an even number of Trump and Clinton voters want lawmakers to act on early childhood education.
And while the Child Care Development Block Grant did increase in last year’s budget, that’s only a step in the right direction.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.