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New Report Finds Fewer Child Care Providers and Increased Prices, Highlighting Need for Significant Federal Investment in Child Care

February 08, 2022

Child Care Aware® of America (CCAoA) today released a new report and interactive website that outline how the U.S. child care system has changed since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The report, titled Demanding Change: Repairing our Child Care System, highlights new survey data showing that nearly 16,000 child care providers (8,900 child care centers and 7,000 licensed family child care programs) permanently closed from December 2019 to March 2021 in 37 states for which data was available. This represents a 9% decrease in child care providers. The survey data also shows that the national annual average price of child care in 2020 was around $10,174, a 5% increase from 2019 and at a rate faster than the increase in the price for consumer goods over the same period of time.  
 
The report contains sections on child care supply, demand, affordability, and the child care workforce. Each section features data from CCAoA’s annual survey of Child Care Resource and Referral agencies and other state partners, along with case studies that focus on critical issues facing our country and how they impact the child care system, including equity, COVID‑19, the role of data and the economy. 
 
Explore the interactive website and report: childcareaware.org/demanding-change 

“Our new report is called Demanding Change because now is the time to demand wholesale change for our broken child care system that was shattered by the pandemic,” said Lynette M. Fraga, Ph.D., CEO of Child Care Aware® of America. “Parents continue to struggle to find and afford child care as they re-enter the workforce. Child care programs are short-staffed and providers are burned out. And still too few children have access to high-quality early learning experiences to prepare them for success in school and beyond. Without large-scale investments in our child care system, such as the Build Back Better Act, these trends will continue.”  

The report also includes appendices with state-by-state data on:  

  • Average annual child care prices.  
  • Least affordable states for child care. 
  • Comparisons of child care prices to housing prices and to in-state tuition at public universities. 
  • Child care affordability for child care professionals.   

Among the report’s findings on the price of child care:   

  • Recently, there have been many stories in the media about increasing inflation. To determine how national average child care prices compared to inflation, we compared them to the rate of inflation for the past few years. For the past two years, the price of child care has exceeded the annual inflation rate. In 2019, child care prices exceeded the inflation rate slightly (0.12%). However, in 2020, these prices exceeded annual inflation by nearly 4%. 
     
  • When compared to the national median income for married couples with children under 18, it would take more than 10% of household income to cover the child care prices for one child. For a single parent, the average price of child care would be 35% of household income. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that the price of child care be no more than 7% of household income.   
     
  • In three out of four regions of the U.S., the annual price of center-based child care for an infant exceeds the cost of housing. In all four regions, the annual price of child care exceeds the annual cost of in‑state tuition at a public four‑year university.  

The report also highlights the importance of quality in child care. While it is imperative to grow the child care system, it is equally important to ensure that we increase access to high‑quality settings.  

Research has consistently shown that children who attend high‑quality early childhood programs have more positive long‑term outcomes, such as higher graduation rates from high school, higher income and better physical health. Short‑term gains were noted by researchers in the U.K., who found that young children who continued to attend child care during the pandemic made more gains in language development and vocabulary growth.   

“Far too many families still do not have access to high‑quality child care due to barriers such as expense and lack of availability,” said Dr. Fraga. “Child care programs are barely staying in business and child care professionals are disrespected and undervalued as demonstrated by continued low wages and lack of benefits. CCAoA has policy recommendations, data solutions and a national network that can help give the U.S. the world‑class child care system that our families, providers and communities deserve.” 

Topics: Press Release

Written by CCAoA