Limits to Choice: Affordable Child Care

sb10069771al-001As I have said before–real reproductive choice includes the right of women to have and raise their children out of poverty. There are, of course, a number of obstacles to this, from the wage gap to higher rates of poverty among women, access to affordable medical care (including reproductive health care and birth control), disparities in education, etc. The list is a long one.

I saw a news story earlier in the week, and it got me thinking about one such hurdle: the cost of child care. Check out this story from ABC Its about a mom in Michigan who, quite kindly (IMHO), watched a few of her friends’ children each morning, for free. She covered the roughly 45 minutes between the time their moms had to leave for work and the time that the school bus picked them up, right in front of her house.

Like you (and probably most of America), I wondered what the problem was. It turns out that Michigan Health and Human Services received a call from someone who reported Ms. Snyder for operating an unlicensed daycare center. They ordered her to cease and desist in caring for her friends’ children each morning! Can you see my jaw hanging open as I watched this on TV–my thoughts speeding past at breakneck speed, while my tongue fails to form words?

Thankfully, her case has received national press and lawmakers in MI are working quickly to revise the statutes that MHHS is attempting to enforce. That’s great. But.

It does not address the real problem here–the exorbitant cost of day care nationwide. According to the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (NACCRRA), the cost per child of part-time day care for a school aged kid is as high as $10,719 a year!

Even scarier than that, though, is that it costs a mere $10K a year, per kid, for part time daycare at a center–but that’s for a school aged child! Placing an infant in day care is WAY more expensive–A NACCRRA report detailing child care costs for 2008 lists the cost of one year of full-time infant care at as high as $15,895! Considering that the median family income in the US is $50,740.00/year, some families are paying out as much as a THIRD of their annual income in day care costs alone!

A parent might be able to find lower-cost care, but that usually means placing their children in a home day care, but as NACCRRA points out, many are unlicensed and it is harder to accurately determine the level of safety/quality of care received at such facilities.

Even if your family brings in the median national income ($50,740) and you are only paying half of the national average for infant day care ($7947.50), you’re still looking at a monthly cost of $662.29! Granted, I live in an area with a relatively low cost of living (though daycare is still EXPENSIVE), $662.29 is almost as much as we pay for our MORTGAGE every month!

I can only imagine the coronary I would have if our family income dropped by even $500/month–kid or no kid!

Faced with such daunting day care rates, medical care costs, a couple of years worth of diapers, clothes, food, school supplies and anything else required for even the most frugal of budgets, even the average family is, realistically, quickly priced out of having a child.

Photo credit: Getty Images


  1. freewomyn says:

    Yeah, the cost of day care is definitely a big hurdle that prevents more women from returning to the workforce after they have a baby. It ends up being to costly. Maybe if more men stayed home with the bambinos, they’d see how much work it is, demand affordable day care options, and then we’d really be in business. Oh, wait . . . that’s just the fantasy in my head talking.

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