Many Families Can’t Afford Child Care, Even with Government Help


Child care and preschool are necessities for working families latino coronavirus
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In every state, paying for child care continues to strain family budgets, and government subsidies aren’t helping enough with the cost, according to new fact sheets.

Even when families can afford it, child care can be hard to find.

That’s why the new fact sheets, created annually by the Center for American Progress (CAP), highlight child care prices, gaps in funding and access, and wages of child care workers─as well as policies that could address these inequities for Latino and all families.

“Comprehensive early learning policies such as capping the amount families pay for child care, implementing universal preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds, and ensuring all eligible children receive child care subsidies would provide enormous benefits to families and state economies,” CAP’s report states.

Gaps in Access to Child Care

Child care and preschool are necessities for working families.

They are also important for children’s social and emotional development, academic achievement, and overall health and wellbeing, according to our Salud America! research review.

Unfortunately, many Latino families are unable to find affordable programs, thus many Latino kids start kindergarten behind their peers.

For the first time, this year’s CAP fact sheets include percent of population that lives in a child care desert, which illustrates supply of child care. A child care desert is any census tract with more than 50 children under age 5 that contains either no child care providers or so few options that there are more than three times as many children as licensed child care slots.

Child care and preschool are necessities for working familiesNationwide, more Latinos (57%) live in child care deserts than non-Latino whites (50%). Rural areas especially are child care deserts.

Although the fact sheets don’t explore disparities in child care supply by race/ethnicity, these data illustrate that many families face gaps in supply.

For example, in Nevada (29% Latino), 72% of people live in a child care desert, which is the highest of any state, compared to 23% in Iowa (6.2% Latino) which is the lowest of any state.

“Parents are faced with impossible choices and are left weaving together a patchwork of care or making career sacrifices that affect their families’ economic security,” the fact sheets state.

Gaps in Funding for Child Care

Although Congress recently approved additional funding for the primary source of child care assistance, the Child Care Development Block Grant, fewer than 10% of eligible children receive child care subsidies.

In every state, the gap between the true cost of high-quality infant care and the current state subsidy rate is at least $7,000 per year.

In the following seven states, the gap is over $20,000: Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, New Jersey, and Wyoming.

“Subsidy payment rates also fall far short of the level needed to cover the cost of high-quality child care, especially for infants and toddlers,” according to Steven Jessen-Howard and Simon Workman with CAP.

Gaps in funding also negatively affect early childhood educators.

In no state does the median hourly wage for a child care worker exceed $13.

This is particularly concerning for women of color who are disproportionately underpaid, which hurts their overall lifetime earnings as well as their ability to get out of poverty.

Policy Opportunities to Improve Child Care Access, Funding

Increasing public investment in the early learning system is good for families. It’s good for state economies, too.

Two critical steps states can take to support working families and benefit states:

  1. Expand the child care subsidy system to cover all low- and middle-income families; and
  2. Provide universal preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds.

Thirty-six states would see at least an estimated $1 billion in benefits from universally affordable child care and some would see over $5 billion, according to CAP.

For example, the Texas (39.6% Latino) state economy would benefit $14.5 billion dollars annually from affordable child care and $5.32 billion from universal access to preschool.

Twenty states would see at least an estimated $1 billion in benefits from universal access to preschool.

“Data such as these can be used to make the case for investing in early learning programs, demonstrating the specific economic benefit that states would see as a result of investing in young children and working families,” according to Jessen-Howard and Workman OF CAP.

Find specific data for your state and share with state leaders and child advocates!

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