Updated Mar 5, 2022 - Economy

Babysitting rates skyrocket

Most expensive cities for babysitting, 2021
Adapted from UrbanSitter; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

The average hourly rate for a babysitter leapt 11% in 2021 to $20.57 an hour — far outpacing the 7% rate of inflation — as the labor shortage made child care providers harder to find.

Why it matters: The increase was undoubtedly a big blow for many working parents. But higher wages are great news for babysitters themselves, who have traditionally been underpaid.

  • And rising prices could be a prelude to more child care subsidies, both public and private — particularly as bosses have watched on Zoom screens how their employees struggle to attend meetings amid wailing children.

Driving the news: UrbanSitter, which connects families with child care and other household help, looked at booking data from more than 10,000 families to calculate babysitting rates across the country.

  • The survey — the company's 11th annual — found an 11% rate hike in 2021. By contrast, babysitting rates only rose 3.9% from 2019 to 2020.
  • "The bumps that we saw this last year, it was just really disproportionate to anything we've seen previously," Lynn Perkins, the founder and CEO of UrbanSitter, tells Axios.
  • Annual increases of 4% to 5% were typical in the past, but "this is the first year we've seen it really outpace inflation significantly."

By the numbers: The national average rate for child care is $20.57 an hour for one child, $23.25 an hour for two and $24.35 an hour for three.

  • New York City and environs had the highest rates ($23.45 an hour for one child), followed by the San Francisco Bay Area ($23.32) and Seattle ($21.23). The lowest rates were in San Antonio, at $14 an hour for one child.
  • Vaccinated sitters get higher wages.

The big picture: Because of the great U.S. labor shortage and COVID, there's a smaller supply of child care providers, and they're able to charge more.

  • Sitters with big credentials have also joined the market, and they're charging higher rates.
  • "We have seen more former teachers, nurses, early childhood education specialists, and others leave their jobs to pursue other opportunities," including babysitting, tutoring and elder care, Perkins said.

While it's tough for many families to have to pay more — and some have had to scrimp on child care as a result — pandemic-era government subsidies may have offset some of the extra costs.

  • Another silver lining: The pandemic has put focus on the #1 stressor for families, juggling careers and caregiving.
  • And on the plus side, "I think caregivers are finally getting the rate that they deserve," says Perkins.

Of note: Other child care matching services show lower average rates than the ones reported by UrbanSitter.

  • According to Care.com, babysitters get $18 an hour in New York City, and nannies get $19.25.
  • Sittercity's rate chart puts costs at $2o.50 an hour in New York for a sitter and $22.50 for a nanny.

What's next: Perkins hopes that babysitting subsidies grow more generous and commonplace.

  • "We're seeing more companies and more people being aware of the need for child care."

Editor's note: This story was originally published on March 2.

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