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Rising child care costs outpacing inflation
Rising child care costs outpacing inflation
Rising child care costs outpacing inflation

Published on: 04/02/2024

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(TND) — Child care costs are outpacing overall inflation, squeezing family budgets.

Meanwhile, child care centers are struggling to meet demand while their workers are often paid low wages with few benefits, one expert said.

Taryn Morrissey, a professor of public administration and policy at American University, said the pandemic exacerbated what was already a supply and cost “crisis.”

Her work has focused on public policies for children and families.

Morrissey said child care stabilization grants, part of pandemic-era government stimulus, expired last fall.

Those grants were really important to helping child care programs keep their doors open, she said.

And the child care cost and supply crunch isn’t likely to get better if the government doesn’t step up to the plate with more subsidies, she said.

“It's a failed market,” she said Tuesday. “And you know, if we were to privatize our K through 12 education system, we'd see something similar. It's just education and care, they don't lend themselves to the private market in the same way (that other businesses do) if you want equitable, high-quality access.”

Bankrate Chief Financial Analyst Greg McBride said last week that households are paying 20-25% more for things than they were in 2020. That’s the cumulative toll of inflation, he said.

But child care costs are up over 30% in a similar amount of time, the Bank of America Institute said late last year.

An average family now spends over $700 a month for child care, according to the Bank of America Institute.

Morrissey said parents in some places are even paying $30,000 a year for child care.

And ReadyNation said last year that the average cost of center-based child care for infants is more than in-state public college tuition in over 30 states.

Morrissey said labor is the main cost driver in child care – about 70 cents to the dollar.

But pay is still low, which makes recruitment and retention difficult for child care centers, she said.

And staffing shortages mean parents might have a hard time finding someone to watch their child while they work.

ReadyNation said over half of Americans live in child care “deserts,” where there are more than three young children for every licensed child care slot.

Morrissey said there’s a lot of evidence that parents will cut work hours or even drop out of the labor force if they can’t find adequate or affordable child care.

She said she did a review some years back that found a 10% decrease in the cost of child care can lead to as much as a 2.5% increase in parental labor force participation.

“Society wide, that's quite an impact,” she said.

And ReadyNation published a report last year that found that the "child care crisis" is costing the country $122 billion every year in lost earnings for working parents, lost productivity for businesses, and lost tax revenue.

Morrissey said child care centers need to have high adult-to-child ratios to provide quality care. But if one staffer is taking care of three or four infants, that means each child’s parents are paying a quarter or a third of that child care worker’s salary, plus everything else.

“The quality rests on that relationship between the adult and the child,” Morrissey said. “And you don't get the same economies of scale as you do in other places.”

News Source : https://wfxl.com/news/nation-world/rising-child-care-costs-outpacing-inflation-families-inflation-cost-of-living-parenting-labor-mothers-fathers-childcare-providers-american-university-bank-of-america-institute-bankrate-readynation

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