A new report released by Child Care Aware of America reveals that in the last year, the cost of child care increased at up to eight times the rate of increases in US family income.

According to the report, Parents and the High Cost of Child Care, families are being forced to spend a significant portion of their earnings for child care services. In every region of the US, average child care costs in 2012 were higher than the average amount families spent on food, and child care fees for two children (an infant and a 4-year-old) in a child care center exceeded annual median rent payments in every state. In addition, in 31 states and DC, the average annual cost for an infant in a child care center was higher than a full year’s tuition and fees at a four-year public college.

Nearly two-thirds of American women with preschool aged children work, but families are usually left on their own to pay for child care–while most other industrialized countries provide universal preschool. In 2012, average costs of child care, ranged from $4,863 in Mississippi to $16,430 in Massachusetts for an infant in a child care center. In terms of affordability – the cost of child care as a percentage of state median income – Oregon ranked as the state with the least affordable child care, based on estimates for a two-parent family.

“Child care is an increasingly difficult financial burden for working families to bear,” said Lynette M. Fraga, Ph.D., Executive Director of Child Care Aware of America. “Too many families are finding it impossible to access and afford quality child care that doesn’t jeopardize children’s safety and healthy development.”

To make quality child care more accessible and affordable, the report recommends, among other things, that the US reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) to ensure that children in low-income working families have access to care. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) in June introduced legislation to reauthorize the block grant until FY 2019.

Several of the report recommendations also dovetail with House Democrats’ recently launched women’s economic agenda, called “When Women Succeed, America Succeeds.” The campaign, which started in June, aims to put pressure on Congress to improve women’s standing and opportunities in the economy through several ways. Their recommendations for ensuring working parents have access to affordable and high-quality child care include promoting President Obama’s Preschool and Early Head Start/Child Care Initiative and expanding the Child Tax Credit of 2009 to help low-income families with children [see PDF].

Media Resources: Child Care Aware Press Release 11/4/13; Senator Barbara Mikulski Media Center 6/5/13; ThinkProgress 7/19/13; “When Women Succeed, America Succeeds” Child Care Fact Sheet

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