Special Report

Counties With the Most Expensive Child Care in Every State

Detailed findings & methodology:

According to the Center for American Progress, most of the cost of child care goes to paying the salaries of the child care workers. It can take several trained, experienced workers to supervise children. Between 9%-14% of child care costs go to paying rent and maintaining the space, and about 16% go to office and administrative costs like supplies, bills, and fees associated with owning and operating a child care facility.

Children who receive high quality care early in their lives are more likely to do well in grade school — and ultimately more likely to graduate from college, earn higher incomes, and less likely to be charged with an offense.

However, the most expensive levels of child care is not available to all parents. Many parents who are less wealthy cannot afford more competitive child care options. This burden becomes even greater for single parents, who lack the support and financial stability that a second parent often provides.

With just one source of income, single parents — often mothers — bear a greater burden for child care. “Single parents pay 36 percent of their incomes on child care, compared with 10 percent of incomes for married couples,” said Pickett. Often, one of the parents in a two-parent household can leave their job or reduce their hours to spend more time with their child, thus saving some or all of the cost of child care.

Among similar wealthy countries, parents in the United States spend a relatively high amount on child care — averaging about 25.6% of their overall income. Child care takes up a larger share of a family’s income only in New Zealand, Ireland, and the U.K. Parents in many European countries spend less than 5% of their incomes on child care. In South Korea, child care is totally paid for by the government.

There is a correlation between the price of child care per month in an area and that area’s median family income. Those with high incomes can afford top quality child care and not worry about cost.

Though Washington D.C. does not appear on the list since it is not technically in a state, the area has the highest child care cost in the United States at $18,712 per child a year. The area with the next highest child care costs is Norfolk County, Massachusetts, with an average annual child care cost of $16,255.

To identify the counties with the most and least expensive child care in every state, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the estimated monthly cost of child care for two parents with a single child for 2018, from the Economic Policy Institute’s Family Budget Calculator. Data on population, median household income, and poverty rate are from the U.S Census Bureau’s American Community Survey for 2017. The major city listed for every county refers to a nearby major city where many people in the county may work or visit. The city is not necessarily in the county listed.