Feb 10, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Exclusive: Babysitting rates surged nearly 10% last year

Change in babysitting rates, 2021 to 2022
Data: UrbanSitter; Chart: Alice Feng/Axios

Babysitting rates rose 9.7% nationally in 2022 — a bit less than the 11% hike seen in 2021, but still outpacing inflation for the second year in a row.

Why it matters: A shortage of babysitters and other child care workers — and higher pay those remaining are able to command — is creating seismic ripples in the labor market, keeping some parents at home or in precarious care arrangements.

  • It's also attracting teachers, nurses and other trained professionals into the career — which in turn drives up rates, because of their experience.
  • In the other direction, day care workers are quitting for higher pay elsewhere — including at custodial jobs.

The big picture: Rates are up across all categories of care, from casual babysitting to full-time nannies to day care (where it can be hard to even get on a waitlist).

  • Per a 2022 Care.com survey, 51% of U.S. parents were spending over 20% of their income on child care — far more than the 7% that the federal government deems "affordable."

By the numbers: Last year's national average babysitting rate was $22.68 an hour for one child, $25.37 an hour for two and $27.70 an hour for three.

  • That's a staggering 21% increase in just two years, according to UrbanSitter, which looked at booking data from 15,000 U.S. families.

Among the major U.S. cities surveyed by UrbanSitter, the highest babysitting rates were in the San Francisco Bay Area ($25.24 an hour for one child) and Seattle ($​​24.60) — nudging out New York City, which took the top spot last year at $23.45.

  • Springfield, Missouri, had the lowest rate, at $11.35.

Yes, but: UrbanSitter's pay rates are on the high side compared with those suggested by Care.com and Sittercity.

What they're saying: The pandemic-era need for "configurable care" — perhaps a babysitter two days a week, and other arrangements for the rest — has waned as employers yank folks back into the workplace, Lynn Perkins, the founder and CEO of UrbanSitter, tells Axios.

  • This translates to a double whammy for parents. "Not only are people paying more, but they’re also using more hours," Perkins said.

Of note: Au pairs are back in demand, as parents seek out live-in help as a more affordable option (for those who have the space).

  • "Share cares" are also more popular, with families teaming up to hire a communal sitter — which can also mean more money for caregivers.

The policy angle: Working parents increasingly expect more child care support from employers and the government, a recent KinderCare report found.

  • Child care benefits are the second-highest reason parents stay at their job, behind health insurance, per KinderCare, which partnered with the Harris Poll to survey 2,800 U.S. parents with children under 12.
  • Chains like KinderCare, Bright Horizons and UrbanSitter are working with employers to offer subsidized child care, which is used to attract and retain workers.
  • A small but growing number of states offer child care subsidies — including New York, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Maine and Connecticut — but not enough is happening at the federal level, advocates say.
  • Expanded federal tax credits for child care expired at the end of 2022, though President Biden called for them to be restored in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday.

What's next: Some employers are starting to subsidize child care for blue-collar workers.

  • "We have a broader swath of companies coming to us — people who have employees in distribution centers or manufacturing facilities," Perkins said.
  • "I think that's because otherwise, those companies are not going to sustain those employees."

What we're watching: Nonprofits are addressing the child care crisis in innovative new ways.

  • A Maine community development financial institution called Coastal Enterprises runs a business incubator that trains people to operate child care centers.
  • Since 2020, it's spawned 16 new businesses licensed for 330 children.

The bottom line: Groups like Moms First (formerly the Marshall Plan for Moms) are trying to put child care front and center on the business agenda, but it's been slow going.

  • National Caregivers Day is next Friday, Feb. 17 — remember to thank the ones in your life!
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