Monday, October 25, 2021


By Chris Kolmar - Sep. 15, 2021


Research Summary. Across the United States, child care accessibility places a large burden on the economy and the labor force. Now, closures and mandates brought on by the global pandemic are causing increased hardship when it comes to finding quality child care.


  • Annual economic losses because of child care translate to $6.9 billion in lost tax revenue, $12.7 billion in lost business revenue, and $36.9 billion in lost individual earnings.
  • In 2020, 57% of working families spent more than $10,000 on child care.
  • 51% of Americans live in communities classified as child care deserts.
  • On average, Americans with children spend at least 10% of their household income on child care.
  • The child care industry in the United States is valued at $54 billion.


  • 27% of families who have difficulty accessing child care can not find an open child care slot.

Roughly half of Americans have trouble finding child care, and 27% of them say it’s because there are not enough open child care slots. As a result, two-thirds of parents in the U.S. have very few — often only one — child care options.

  • On average, it costs $340 per week to send a child to a child care or daycare center.

As reported by the Center for American Progress, in the United States, it costs $300 per week to send a child to a family care center, $340 per week to send a child to a child care or daycare center, and $612 per week for a nanny.

  • Roughly 30% of U.S. children under the age of five can not access a child care slot.

According to a 2020 study that analyzes 25 states across the nation, 8.4 million children under the age of five needed child care. However, only about 5.9 million child care slots were available. Thus, roughly 2.7 million children, or 31.7%, could not access quality child care due to a limited number of child care slots.


  • Child care is more likely to impact a mother’s career than it is to impact a father’s career.

According to a survey conducted by the Center for American Progress, mothers with young children are 40% more likely than fathers to report that child care issues have negatively impacted their careers.

  • About 20% of stay-at-home mothers would enter the workforce if they had child care assistance.

According to numbers published by American Progress, 20% of mothers who do not currently work would look for a job if they had better access to quality child care.

An additional 42% of working mothers would look for a higher-paying job, and 29% of working mothers would seek additional schooling or training to help them advance in their careers.

  • The cost of child care has led to a 13% decline in the employment of mothers.

Over the past two decades, women’s participation in the labor force has been declining, and rising child care costs are partly to blame. The United States’ lack of federal child care and paid family leave policies is tied to at least one-third of the decline in female employment.

  • In the United States, 69% of young mothers work.

According to the Center for American Progress, nearly 70% of young mothers participate in the labor force. The center also found that fewer mothers in the workforce are directly associated with child care deserts.

  • About 42% of mothers are sole or primary breadwinners for their household.

Overall, 70% of American mothers participate in the labor force, and roughly 42% of them are the sole or primary breadwinners in their homes. This rate is even higher among Black mothers, with 71% of them serving as the sole or primary breadwinners for their household.


  • Roughly 30% of infants and toddlers go to home-based child care facilities.

In the United States, 29.5% of infants and toddlers attend home-based child care facilities. Meanwhile, 37.7% of infants and toddlers are exclusively cared for by a parent or guardian.

  • 58% of working parents rely on child care centers.

According to national estimates from the National Household Education Survey, 58% of working parents with children five years old and younger — or about 6.38 million parents across the nation — use center-based child care options.

The survey also found that of the 11 million working parents in the U.S., 31% of them do not rely on any outside child care, 25% of them rely on non-relatives for child care, and 47% rely on relatives for child care.

  • U.S. businesses lose, on average, $12.7 billion each year due to child care challenges.

Data shows that employees with children three years old and younger cost their employers roughly $1,150 per year because of inadequate child care. With 11 million working parents across the U.S., this equates to a total business loss of $12.7 billion.


  • The large majority of working parents have reduced their work hours, at some point, for their kids.

As a result of child care problems, 63% of working parents have left work earlier than normal, 56% of working parents have been late for work, 55% of working parents have missed a full day of work, and 54% of working parents have reported being distracted at work, according to data published by Ready Nation.

In addition, of the parents surveyed, one in five of them said they have been reprimanded at least once by a supervisor, and one in seven of them said they have had their pay or hours reduced as a result of child care affecting their productivity levels at work.

  • More than half of U.S. families spent more than $10,000 on child care in 2020.

According to a survey by, 57% of families across the United States spent more than $10,000 on child care last year. In 2021, 59% of families are budgeting to spend more than $10,000 in yearly child care costs.

These numbers make child care more expensive than college, with the average in-state tuition ringing up at $9,580 annually.

  • The current child care system places a $98 billion burden on the U.S. economy.

According to data reported by Ready Nation, working parents lose an estimated $8,940 each year in lost earnings, reduced participation in the workforce, and lower returns on professional experience.

Across the nation, there are approximately 11 million working parents with children under the age of three. As such, the current child care system results in a total average annual economic cost of $98 billion.


  • The United States is on track to permanently lose up to 4.5 million child care slots due to the pandemic.

According to Teach for America, more than 4 million child care slots could be lost in the coming months due to COVID-19. Moreover, the large majority of these lost slots will affect low-income families and people of color.

  • Prior to the pandemic, at least two-thirds of U.S. families relied on some form of child care.

Before the pandemic, the majority of parents with children under the age of six worked and thus relied on child care to some extent. About 22% of all parents with young children say that they can not work, either in person or remotely, without child care.

  • Child care is more expensive now compared to before the pandemic.

According to a report published by, 72% of families say that child care is more expensive than it was before the global COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, only 6% of families report that it is less expensive.

Increased costs are widely due to the elevated safety precautions that have been put in place at child care centers across the nation.

  • Quality child care is much harder to find now compared to before the pandemic.

Roughly 46% of families in the United States said that they have a harder time finding child care now compared to pre-pandemic. As such, many families are turning to nannies instead of daycare centers for their child care needs.

Today, the cost of hiring a nanny is only $14 more per week than the cost of having two kids in a child care center. In 2019, it cost $239 more weekly to hire a nanny.

  • The majority of U.S. child care centers have not yet fully reopened.

According to, of the 51% of American families who used child care or daycare center before the pandemic, 61% say that the center is not yet fully open and operating. An additional 14% of survey families who used child care centers before the pandemic said that their child care provider is open, but not fully.

  • 62% of families are more concerned about the cost of child care now compared to before the pandemic.

Compared to pre-pandemic, 62% of families are more concerned, while 10% of families are less concerned about the cost of child care. Of the 62% who are more concerned, 43% said it was because of the increased cost of child care due to safety protocols, and 32% said it was because they had to shift to a different child care arrangement.


In the United States, roughly 44% of Black families, 50% of White families, and 57% of Hispanic families live in a child care desert and thus have a harder time finding child care.

Among higher-income neighborhoods, only 43% of families struggle to find child care. This is compared to 54% of families who live in lower-income neighborhoods and have a hard time accessing child care.

  • More than 70% of mothers in the United States work.

According to labor statistics, in 2020, 71.2% of mothers with children under the age of 18 participated in the labor force. This number was down from 72.3% in 2019. For comparison, in 2020, 92.3% of fathers with children under the age of 18 participated in the labor force.

  • Black mothers have the highest rates of workforce participation out of all mothers in the United States.

According to numbers released by American Progress, 80% of Black women with children aged six through 17 work — the highest rate of all other racial and ethnic groups analyzed. In addition, the labor force participation rate for Black women has increased by 23% since 1989.

  • Child care is harder to access in the Western United States and rural areas.

In small towns and rural areas across the nation, roughly 26% of families report that finding a child care provider is very difficult. For comparison, only 10% of families who live in the suburbs and 11% of families who live in major cities report having a very difficult time finding a quality child care provider.

In addition, an estimated 20% of families in the Western United States lost their child care provider, either because they are permanently closed or unavailable, due to the pandemic.

  • Quality child care is especially hard to come by in Utah, Nevada, Hawaii, West Virginia, and New York.

Utah, Nevada, Hawaii, West Virginia, and New York have the highest rates of child care deserts by the state in the United States. Data shows that 77% of families in Utah, 72% of families in Nevada, 68% of families in Hawaii, and 64% of families in West Virginia and New York live in a child care desert.


Child care deserts refer to areas in the United States with little to no access to quality child care. Data suggests that more than half of all American families reside in child care deserts and, in some states, as much as two-thirds of families have limited access to child care.

Most areas are classified as a child care desert if more than 50 children under the age of five reside there, and there are more than three times as many children as there are licensed child care slots.


Yes. Some states have proposed budgets and legislations to provide child care benefits to working families. A federal comprehensive early childhood policy, the Child Care for Working Families Act, has been proposed in congress.

If passed, this policy would serve several million children across the United States, allow families with at least two children in child care to save more than $10,000 annually, and help to increase economic activity in at least 36 states by an estimated $1 billion each.

There’s no question that quality child care — that is both accessible and affordable — is an integral aspect of both the U.S. economy and the livelihood of families across the nation. However, after analyzing the numbers, it seems the current system is not only failing parents but also shorting employers and placing an overwhelming burden on America’s economy.

With more than half of all working families spending a whopping $10,000 a year on child care or roughly 10% of their household income, it’s no surprise that child care is leading to $6.9 billion in lost tax revenue, $12.7 billion in lost business revenue and $36.9 billion in lost individual earnings across the nation.

Although COVID-19 shutdowns may generally be past us, the pandemic continues to place added hardships on parents when it comes to affording and finding child care, an industry valued at $54 billion. Now, the availability and affordability of quality child care could largely depend on the success of various federal legislations.


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