Jun 22, 2023 - News

Child care can cost as much as college, burdening D.C. families

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

The cost of sending a toddler to a child care center in D.C. is nearly $24,400 on average annually, per a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Why it matters: High-quality care and education at an early age are critical for a child's healthy development, and it allows parents, especially women, to advance in the labor force.

The big picture: High costs and limited options are forcing some to quit their jobs to stay home.

Between the lines: The high cost in D.C. means a single mother making the median income would need to spend an (unfathomable) 73% of her income on child care, the report says.

  • A married couple making the median income must shell out roughly 11% of their paychecks.

Zoom out: D.C. is the most expensive place for child care when compared to states.

  • Yes, but: The usual disclaimer applies when comparing stats from a largely urban city like D.C. to states.

By the numbers: The average annual national cost of child care for one kid in 2021 was $10,600, the report found, writes Axios' Astrid Galván.

  • Child care costs have increased by 220% since 1990, outpacing inflation, per the report.
  • Infant care is even more burdensome — it costs more than in-state tuition at a public university in Washington, D.C., and in 34 states.

Be smart: The inaccessibility of child care disproportionately affects women, single parents, families of color, immigrant families, and those who live in poverty, experts say.

Of note: About 2,200 children are newly eligible for D.C.'s child care subsidy, thanks to an expansion of the program which pays costs directly to the provider.

  • The city's new budget expands eligibility to families making up to about $90,000 for a family of four.

What to watch: The Child Care for Working Families Act (CCWFA), introduced in Congress every year since 2017 without success, would tackle some of the issues around child care, according to Kim Kruckel, executive director of the Child Care Law Center.

  • The bill was referred to committees in the House and Senate after being reintroduced in late April, but it's unclear whether it'll be a priority this year.

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