Think College Is Expensive? In Most States, Child Care Costs Even More

September 28, 2016, 5:07 PM UTC
Students painting in class
Photograph by Robert Daly—Getty Images

Earlier this month, Donald Trump did something extremely atypical for a Republican presidential candidate: He announced a child care policy.

For those wondering why kids’ care has become such a central topic in this presidential election, consider that in 33 states, the cost of infant care is higher than the cost of college tuition—$9,589 a year vs. $9,410, according to the newly released Care Index.

A joint initiative by Washington think tank New America and (CRCM), the Care Index is a compilation of state-by-state data on the cost, quality, and availability of child care. Here are a few other surprising revelations from the index on what it takes to take care of kids in the U.S.:

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1.) A family with the median household income needs to spend one-fifth of it to cover full-time care at a center. For an individual earning minimum wage, care costs about two-thirds (64%) of their earnings.

2.) The cost of full-time care in child care centers is 85% of the monthly U.S. median cost of rent. In four states—Kentucky, Montana, Oregon, and Wisconsin—full-time care is more expensive than the median rent.

3.) The typical cost of full-time care using an in-home caregiver, or nanny is $28,353 a year. This is equal to 53% of median household income, or nearly twice the income for a minimum wage earner.

While statistics like these can make it seem illogical for both partners in a two-parent household to go to work, research has shown that it can actually be even more expensive to take time off.

Michael Madowitz, a researcher at Washington think tank Center for American Progress, found that the average American woman taking a five-year break from her career starting at age 26 will lose out on $467,000 in income, wage growth, and retirement assets and benefits over her lifetime. (The average American man of the same age will lose $596,000.) Considering that the average cost of care is a little under $10,000, the career break ends up being about 10 times more expensive.

Better start saving.

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