Aug 15, 2023 - News

Cost of child care forces some California parents to leave jobs

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

Child care has gotten so expensive in California that some parents have been forced to quit their jobs, turn down opportunities or stop working to stay home with their kids.

Driving the news: The average annual cost of sending a toddler to day care in California is $13,408, about 11% of a married couple's median income, according to a recent report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

  • For single mothers in California, the burden is even heavier, with child care costing 36% of their median income.

Context: Child care costs have skyrocketed 220% since 1990, outpacing inflation, per the report.

  • That price tag is higher than undergraduate tuition at San Diego State University and about the same as tuition at UC San Diego.
  • Many local parents spend hundreds of dollars per week.

Why it matters: Families have long struggled to stay afloat while working and paying for child care, and the inaccessibility of care disproportionately affects women, single parents, Black and Latino families, immigrant families and those who live in poverty, Axios' Astrid Galván reports.

Zoom in: In California, 15% of kids 5 and younger lived with a family member who had to quit, change or refuse a job because of child care issues in 2021, according to the report.

By the numbers: Nationally, that was the case for about 17% of Black children and 16% of Latino kids ages 5 and younger.

  • The same was true for 10% of white non-Hispanic children.
  • Experts estimate women were five to eight times more likely than men to face "negative employment consequences related to caregiving," per the report.

What they're saying: "The child care costs can be so burdensome that they struggle to pay their rent, to buy food, to buy diapers and clothing for their children," says Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs at the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

What's happening: The City of San Diego launched a pilot program in July that provides eligible city employees $100-$1,000 in monthly child care benefits for kids younger than 12, based on need. It gets underway in September.

  • To be eligible, city employees must make less than $95,350 annually and work full-time or at least 20 hours per week while enrolled in a training or higher education program.
  • The city partnered with TOOTRiS, a local tech startup, to connect parents and child-care providers.
  • Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-CA), who represents the 51st Congressional District, secured $2 million in federal grant money for the community project.

The big picture: Congress stepped in to help stabilize child care during the COVID-19 pandemic, but that relief funding is set to end in September.

  • Without more federal investment, over 84,400 kids will likely lose care across California, as more than 13,500 programs are expected to close, per a recent report by The Century Foundation.

Yes, but: California expanded its transitional kindergarten program to include 4-year-olds starting in the 2022-23 school year, meaning one less year of paying for child care.

  • That's already implemented in San Diego, but capacity limitations can make the enrollment process challenging to navigate.
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