Aug 8, 2023 - News

Child care costs eat up family income in Oregon

Data: Annie E. Casey Foundation; Map: Tory Lysik/Axios Visuals

The average annual day care center cost for a toddler in Oregon is more expensive than some college tuition at $13,007, according to a national report, about $1,200 more than current in-state tuition at Portland State University.

Why it matters: The report released this summer by the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows how deeply families struggle to stay afloat while working and paying for child care — forcing some parents to quit the workforce altogether.

  • More than one-third of working parents have young children, according to the report, and a lack of affordable, accessible care ultimately "undercuts [their] ability to be self-sufficient," it says.

By the numbers: The study, which draws on estimates from the National Database of Childcare Prices and census data, found the average annual cost for center-based toddler care in Oregon is $13,007. In-home care is nearly 40% cheaper, averaging $7,640.

  • Of note: Prices generally are highest for infants, and drop as children reach preschool age.

Context: A much more granular statewide study released earlier this year, which reviews actual market child care costs through a comprehensive provider database, found parallel trends.

Zoom in: Multnomah County child care costs are the highest in Oregon, per the state report, which put the median monthly price for a toddler at a Multnomah County child care center at $1,755.

  • That adds up to $21,060 a year — over $5,000 more than in-state tuition and fees for an undergraduate at the University of Oregon.
  • Washington County was the next most expensive, with the annual median cost for a toddler to attend a year-round day care center figured at $20,028.

What they're saying: "What we spend our money on the most is wages," said Brittney Doffing, director of the Wow and Flutterville child care center's NE Portland location, adding that the center also provides employees benefits like health care.

  • "In order to pay teachers a livable wage, we have to have high tuition, and even then it's hard to cover."

Separately, Multnomah County's Preschool for All, approved by voters last year, is set to serve 1,400 children ages 3 and 4 this fall, according to program spokesperson Ashley Walker.

  • The program — funded by a tax on high-income residents — pays providers $15,000 to $22,000 per child annually, depending on whether care is part- or full-time.
  • A number of other federal and state programs are designed to offset the cost of child care for qualifying low-income families.

The big picture: Child care takes a big bite out of family income, and in some cases paychecks can't cover it.

  • About 17% of Black children and 16% of Latino children ages 5 and under lived with a family member who had to quit, change or refuse a job because of child care issues in 2021, according to the national report.

Between the lines: Child care workers are among the lowest-paid workers in the U.S.

  • The median annual pay for such workers, the vast majority of whom are women, was $28,520 last year, according to the national report.

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