8 Shocking Facts About the Cost of Child Care

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When companies don’t offer paid leave (and even when they do), most new parents are left to decide between going back to work and paying for child care, or staying home and sacrificing an income or future earnings. In fact, the cost of child care is so staggering that sociologist Joya Mira has dubbed it “the motherhood penalty.” As of 2011, there were 32.7 million children in care arrangements, according to the U.S. Census, and 25 percent went to day care facilities while 13 percent were taken care of by babysitters or non-family members.

Here are eight shocking facts about the cost of child care. You might want to start saving now.

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1. Across America, the average cost of child care per year is $18,000. According to a 2015 Care.com report, “Year over year, it’s the largest annual household expense.” And what does that care cost in expensive cities like New York? Anecdotal evidence shows families paying $25,000 to $30,000 per child per year.

2. The average yearly cost of day care is $11,666. According to the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (NACCRRA).

3. Even though child care is the most costly yearly expense for most families, almost half of families don’t budget for it. Forty-two percent of families don’t budget for it, according to a 2014 Care.com study.

4. In 35 states and Washington, D.C., putting your kid in a day care center for a year will cost you more than sending her to a public college. According to Professor Joya Misra, who teaches sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

5. If you already employ a nanny, just have that second kid. A nanny for one kid will run you on average $477 per week, while a nanny for two kids is only marginally more expensive at $488 per week. There’s no similar benefit at day care centers: $188 vs. $341.

6. On average, babysitters bank $13.44 per hour. This rate is a 28 percent increase from 2009. And remember this is a national average: In expensive cities like San Francisco and New York, the number is even higher: $16.65 and $15.09 per hour, respectively.

7. Surprisingly, there is no set standard fee for child care. When it comes to babysitting, 68 percent of parents rely on the sitters to set a fee.

8. Since 1985, the cost of child care has nearly doubled. Even when adjusted for inflation.

More on Maternity Leave:
Why You Need to Invest in Care: How Paying for Child Care Could Earn You Millions 
Think Federally Funded Child Care Wouldn’t Work? We Did It in the 1940s 
6 Successful Women on Their Maternity Leave