Many parents are struggling to pay their bills, lower credit card debt or make their monthly mortgage payments, and now a new financial burden may impose additional financial strain: rising child care costs. The expenses associated with finding reliable child care – whether through a licensed daycare center, nanny or babysitter – can be high, and a new report shows that these costs are continuing to climb at faster rates.
A new report released by the U.S. Census Bureau reveals that child care costs have nearly doubled in the past 25 years, forcing many parents to either devote more income toward finding a care provider or forgo child care altogether. According to the findings, households with an employed mother and children under the age of 15 saw child care expenses increase to $143 per week in 2011, up from only $84 in 1985. In addition, a large number of children, both elementary and middle-school age, care for themselves when both parents work or they live in a single-parent household. Five percent of children between ages 5 and 11 regularly cared for themselves in 2011. Further, 27 percent of those ages 12 to 14 also provided self-care, the study reveals.
The percent of income most parents contribute to child care hangs around 7 percent.
“Perhaps the most critical decision parents make in balancing their work and home life is choosing the type of care to provide for their children while they work,” said report author Lynda Laughlin , a family demographer in the Census Bureau’s Fertility and Family Statistics Branch. “Child care arrangements and the financial burden they impose on families are important issues for policymakers and anyone concerned about the welfare of children. This report is unique in that it is not only the sole study from the Census Bureau on this topic, but also provides a consistent time-series on trends going back to the mid-1980s.
Seeking out affordable alternatives
As families fight to put themselves in a better financial position, the rising cost of child care can serve as an obstacle to meeting their goals. Families are encouraged to not only seek out every avenue of finding care alternatives – such as leaning on family and friends – but also relying on child care tax breaks and state assistance programs to help them shave their costs. A rising number of companies are also offering telecommute options, which may be a useful alternative to parents who are finding it challenging to find affordable providers.