Jun 16, 2023 - News

Child care costs are overwhelming Illinois parents

Average annual cost of center-based care for a toddler, by state
Data: Annie E. Casey Foundation; Map: Tory Lysik/Axios Visuals

Illinois child care is among the most expensive in the nation when compared against incomes, costing the average single mother more than a third of her pay, per a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Why it matters: The lack of affordable child care is keeping workers, especially women, out of the labor force.

The big picture: The pandemic has exacerbated the U.S. child care system's existing problems, including dwindling workers, low pay and poor access.

By the numbers: In Illinois, $12,470 ($1,039 a month) was the average annual cost for center-based care for one toddler last year, per the report. That's 37% of a single mother's median income, or 11% for a married couple.

  • Home-based care costs $8,943 on average ($745 a month), or 27% of a single mother's median income and 8% for a couple.

Of note: One-third (33%) of Illinois children lived in single-parent households in 2021, per census data.

Zoom out: Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York and Colorado lead the way with single mothers spending the largest percentages of their income on child care costs.

  • The District of Columbia has the nation's highest percentage (73%).

Between the lines: Some 15% of Illinois toddlers had a parent change jobs due to child care problems from 2020 to 2021, per the report.

  • Single mothers, families in poverty and families of color are disproportionately affected.

What they're saying: "Child care's high costs often prevent parents from paying rent and buying life's necessities, such as food, diapers, and clothes," YWCA Metropolitan Chicago's Katelyn Jones tells Axios.

Eye-popping stats: Despite high costs for families, child care businesses operate on thin profit margins of typically less than 1%.

  • Prices have risen 220% since 1990, significantly outpacing inflation.
  • Yes, but: Child care workers — 94% of whom are women — make less than 98% of other U.S. professions, leading to staff turnover. Median annual pay is $28,520 ($13.71 hourly).

What we're watching: Gov. JB Pritzker has pushed for universal early childhood education, including allocating $250 million in this year's budget to fund the first year of Smart Start Illinois, the governor's initiative to eliminate "preschool deserts."

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