Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Costs of child care services keep rising; more working mothers means more child care is needed

In an age when more mothers with small children work—60 percent of mothers with young children worked in 2013, compared to 28 percent in 1975—more and better child care services are necessary, Justin Feldman reports for Journalist's Resource. In his 2015 State of the Union Address, President Obama said, “It’s time we stop treating childcare as a side issue or a women’s issue and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us." Obama proposed a new annual tax cut of up to $3,000 per child. (U.S. Census Bureau graphic)
Many states with large rural populations are severely lacking in quality child care services. Child Care Aware of America in 2013 ranked each state by its child care centers, scoring states up to 10 points in 15 categories. The average score was 92, which equates to a number grade of 61 for a national average of D. No state received a grade higher than C, and 21 states received a failing grade. Idaho easily came in dead last with only 23 points. Following Idaho was Nebraska, 47; California, 51; Louisiana, 57; Alabama, 67; Maine 76; Wyoming, 79; South Carolina, 80; Iowa, 81 and Mississippi, Connecticut and Arkansas, 82. New York led all states with 116 points.

A third of young children—6.7 million—receive care from a non-relative on a regular basis, says the U.S. Census Bureau, Feldman writes. "For infants in center-based care, the average annual cost ranges from $5,496 in Mississippi to $16,549 in Massachusetts; for 4-year-olds, care in a center ranges from $4,515 in Tennessee to $12,320 in Massachusetts, according to Child Care Aware. Childcare workers (excluding preschool teachers) continue to be paid some of the lowest wages of any professional field—just $21,490 on average."

Costs continue to rise to enroll children in care, Feldman writes. A 2013 Census Bureau report said parents of children under 5 paid an average of $179 per week, or $9,300 per year. "While the cost of child care increased over time, the percent of family monthly income spent on child care has stayed constant between 1997 and 2011, at around 7 percent. A 2014 Pew Research Center report found that families earning less than $18,000 annually spend about 40 percent of their income on childcare (compared to 7.2 percent of income for all families)." (Read more)

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