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Quality Child Care Unaffordable for Many Working Families

A new study finds that quality child care exceeds the cost of rent in most of the United States and is out of reach for working families. Credit: Anissa Thompson/FreeImages.com
A new study finds that quality child care exceeds the cost of rent in most of the United States and is out of reach for working families. Credit: Anissa Thompson/FreeImages.com
October 15, 2015

GARDEN CITY, N.Y. – The cost of quality child care exceeds the cost of rent for working families in most of the U.S., while the strongest disparities exist in parts of upstate New York, according to a new study.

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) finds that child care costs more than rent in 500 of the 618 family budget areas researchers studied, with the largest gap found in Binghamton, N.Y., where two-child families pay three times more for child care than for housing.

Elise Gould, EPI senior economist, says policy makers must tackle the issue of child care, which she says will continue to be a drag on the economy as it strains family budgets, forces some parents – often women – to stop working and exacerbates the student achievement gap.

"Think about ways in which we can make sure that it's affordable for families and yet that they are getting good child care for their kids," she urges. "Good child care for the future of this country as well. We want to have kids who are ready for school. We want to close the achievement gaps."

The study also found that infant child care costs more than the average cost of in-state tuition at public four-year colleges in 33 states and the Washington, D.C.

While quality child care has long been out of reach for low-income families, Gould says it is increasingly not affordable for middle- and upper-income families as well.

The fact that child care costs are increasingly not affordable for working families across the socioeconomic spectrum is indisputable, but proposals for making it more affordable are up for debate.

Joy Connolly, director of education program services, Child Care Council of Nassau in Garden City, says lawmakers should tackle the issue with a multi-pronged approach.

"We want there to be incentives for business investments along with state and local government strategies to maintain child care funding and, of course, where at all possible expand those investments," she states.

In the category of family budgets, the study also found that quality child care for single-parent households with two children ages 4 to 8 years old costs the most in Buffalo at 33.7 percent, while it costs just a third of that in New Orleans at 11.7 percent.

Nia Hamm, Public News Service - NY