Child Care Costs Rose Slightly in 2023, More Parents Staying Home With Young Children

Jen Krausz
By Jen Krausz
May 23, 2024US News
Child Care Costs Rose Slightly in 2023, More Parents Staying Home With Young Children
A daycare employee watches children in carts at a park in downtown Washington, DC on April 11, 2013. (Mladen Antonov/AFP via Getty Images)

A new report from Child Care Aware of America put the national average cost of child care at $11,582 in 2023, up from $11,165 in 2022.

Although the increase was slight—lower than inflation for the year—it follows a trend of higher costs that really took off during COVID-19.

Bank of America’s internal data showed that from 2019 to 2023, child care costs rose 30 percent, similar to the rate of inflation during that time.

The report noted that this average cost is 10 percent of a married couple’s median income and 32 percent of a single parent’s median income.

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that child care costs no more than 7 percent of a family’s annual income.

For families in 45 states plus the District of Columbia with two or more children receiving child care services, the costs now eclipse the cost of a mortgage.

The cost is greater than rent in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, and for some, child care costs double that of rent.

In 39 states and the District of Columbia, the cost of child care for an infant in a child care center was higher than in-state college tuition.

The soaring cost of child care over the last several years has led many families to re-evaluate their employment situations.

A large study by Motherly reported that while 15 percent of mothers were stay-at-home moms who didn’t earn an income in 2022, that number jumped to 24 percent by the end of 2023.

In addition, the number of stay-at-home dads has risen from four percent in 1989 to seven percent in 2023, and there has been a significant shift away from dual-income households since the COVID-19 shutdowns a few years ago.

The rise of working from home does not fully account for this shift since many at-home jobs still require child care and can’t be done effectively while caring for an infant or young child.

More parents are clearly deciding that the dual-income lifestyle isn’t for them, and the high cost of child care is one factor in that decision.

Collin Doyle of Germansville, Pennsylvania told NTD via Facebook messenger, “I am a stay-at-home dad because the thought of working to pay someone else to raise my kids is just crazy to me. We have three under age four, so child care would be more than our mortgage.”

However, there are some reasons parents stick with dual incomes despite the cost of child care.

Ashley I. of Falls Church, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C., told NTD that she and her husband will be paying $500 a week for care for her infant when she returns to work next month.

She said, “Benefits were a big factor in the decision. Family plans through insurance are very expensive. It’s better I at least bring something home, even if it won’t be much after we pay daycare.”

Emily S. of Michigan said they were forced to hire a nanny at $55,000 per year due to COVID-19 closures and long waitlists when centers reopened. She told NTD via Facebook messenger that she and her husband, both in their early 40s, “are both in engineering careers with good benefits, and re-entry to the workforce at a similar level would be exceedingly difficult after taking any number of years off.”

For some families, working opposite shifts has been the solution to expensive child care costs, but that choice can strain a marriage or partnership since there is little couple time.

Inflation continues to be higher than the two percent analysts think is reasonable, putting pressure on more families to make the difficult decisions between working for pay and staying at home with their children in the coming years.

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