Jul 8, 2022 - News

D.C. is the most expensive place in the U.S. for child care

Data: Care.com. Chart: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals
Data: Care.com. Chart: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

As the cost of child care rises, a survey found that the District is the most expensive place in the country to hire a nanny and to send a kid to daycare.

Why it matters: The pandemic has changed work habits, leading to a shift away from 9-5 daycare and toward “configurable" arrangements — perhaps a babysitter two days a week, and other arrangements for the rest, Axios’ Jennifer A. Kingson wrote recently.

By the numbers: 51% of U.S. parents say they'll spend over 20% of their income on child care this year — far more than the 7% that the federal government defines as "affordable" — according to a survey from Care.com of 3,003 adults conducted in March.

  • In 2019, only 31% of parents said they'd spend that much.

In the District, the weekly rate for a nanny is $855. That's 23% above the national average. Daycare is $419 a week, a whopping 85% above the national average.

  • The costs have soared even as the number of births in D.C. has decreased from 9,854 in 2016 to 8,869 in 2020.

What they’re saying: The pandemic raised costs for families — which also meant a much-needed pay raise for nannies. Demand also increased when schools shut down and parents working from home needed help caring for kids, says Barbara Kline, founder and president of White House Nannies, Inc., which connects families with nannies and other household staff.

  • "It was like pants on fire. We have never had more demand in three decades than we had during COVID," Kline tells Axios.

There are some incentives D.C. provides to ease the burden on low-income families, but advocates are pushing for more funding.

  • The advocacy group DC Action seeks more funding for the Birth-to-Three Act, in order to expand coverage so that no family would pay more than 10% of their income for childcare, says Ruqiyyah Anbar-Shaheen, who advocates for early childhood initiatives.
  • The group also calls for more public dollars to incentivize higher wages for early childhood providers.

Of note: The usual caveat applies when national surveys compare expensive and urban D.C. to U.S. states, which typically have rural and urban populations.

  • As our Axios Seattle colleague Melissa Santos pointed out, that means it’s conceivable some cities may outpace D.C. in child care costs.

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