Americans looking for an affordable, high-quality caregiver for their kids will be hard-pressed to find one in any U.S. state, according to one of the broadest studies of its kind.
Full-time care in a center for children age 4 or younger costs more than average in-state college tuition, while an in-home caregiver costs 53 percent of U.S. median household income, according to a report Wednesday from New America, a Washington-based research organization. The study used proprietary data from the online marketplace Care.com Inc., a survey of 15,000 households, and publicly available figures from the Census Bureau and Child Care Aware of America.
Quality as measured by accreditation and user reviews, and availability as measured by the ratio of childcare workers to young children, is also inconsistent across the country; no state scores well across the board for cost, quality and availability, the report says.
The study underscores why both major U.S. presidential nominees have plans to reduce costs and improve the quality of U.S. childcare, which has under-performed against developed-economy peers. The report expands on previous work by other groups by incorporating nanny-care cost data from Care.com’s more than 8 million caregiver members, as well as the company’s survey data on the various arrangements that parents select.
The figures show “child care is expensive, even though caregivers make poverty wages; that care can be difficult to find, and that, though quality is difficult to measure, only a handful of centers and family homes are nationally accredited for quality,” authors Brigid Schulte and Alieza Durana wrote.
Full-time care in centers for young children costs an average $9,589 a year versus the average cost for in-state college tuition of $9,410, the report said. The costs are familiar to a broad swath of Americans. The price tag for an in-home caregiver averaged an annual $28,353, ranging from $25,744 in Wisconsin to $33,366 in the District of Columbia, according to the report.
Republican Donald Trump released a plan earlier this month to tackle the costs through tax deductions and rebates, and mandated maternity leave. Democrat Hillary Clinton has pledged universal pre-kindergarten access, an expansion of the Child Tax Credit, and scholarships for parents who are in school.
“As far as child care is concerned and so many other things, I think Hillary and I agree on that,” Trump said in the first head-to-head debate between the two on Monday. “We probably disagree a little bit as to numbers and amounts and what we’re going to do.”
New America is headed by Chief Executive Officer Anne-Marie Slaughter, who worked as the director of policy planning at the State Department when Clinton was secretary.
Care.com is backed by Google parent Alphabet Inc., with Google Capital investing $46 million in the Waltham, Massachusetts-based company to become the largest shareholder, according to a June statement. Care.com has donated at least $100,000 to New America, according to New America spokeswoman Maria Elkin. The company provided “generous support” for the research, the report said.
Poor marks for U.S. child-care costs, quality and availability threaten further harm to the labor market, the authors note. One-fifth of families use a patchwork approach to care, cobbling together more than one type of child-care arrangement in a typical week, according to the report.
“When parents can’t find affordable, quality child care, their only alternatives are to cut back on work hours, seek alternative work arrangements, look for care on the unregulated, cheaper ‘gray market,’ rely on an informal network of families, friends, and neighbors, or even exit the labor market completely,” they wrote.
Labor-force participation already is lingering near four-decade lows. The share of Americans who are employed or looking for a job has plummeted to 62.8 percent as of August, close to the 62.4 percent reached a year ago that was the lowest since 1977.
The authors include four policy recommendations: universal paid family leave, better cash assistance programs, high-quality universal pre-kindergarten, and more programs aimed at dual-language learners.