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The cost of childcare in the US has skyrocketed – up to 46% – since 2018, and the COVID-19 pandemic is to blame.
Women, especially low-income women, are most affected by rising childcare costs.
Women of nearly all races and ethnicities experience higher rates of poverty than men, with the highest rates among minority women, such as Latinas, according to the Center for American Progress.
While Latinas represent 18.1% of all women in the US population, they constitute 27.1% of women in poverty.
What Does Rising Childcare Costs Mean for Latinas?
The cost of childcare, which is rising in nearly all states due to pandemic worker shortages and childcare center closures, has had a direct effect on Latinas.
From March 2020 to March 2021, the number of Latinas in the workforce dropped by 2.74%, equivalent to 336,000 fewer Latinas in the labor force, according to the UCLA Latino Politics and Policy Initiative (LPPI) report.
One reason for this dip is that Latino families are twice as likely as others to be low income, so childcare costs are an even greater burden.
For example, a minimum wage worker (at the federal amount of $7.25 an hour) with two children would need to allocate nearly all (90%) of an annual paycheck toward the average cost of childcare, according to the 2022 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps report.
Because of these high costs, it may be more affordable for Latinas, who are often responsible for family care, to stay home with their children.
An average American household with two children spends 25% of its income on childcare, more than three times the US Department of Health and Human Services’ 7% affordability benchmark, according to the CHR&R report.
Disturbingly, there are no counties in the US where the cost of childcare for two children is at or below the 7% benchmark for affordability.
With more Latinas caring for children at home, it can be even harder for them to return to the workforce, if desired.
Time away from the workforce lessens opportunities for professional growth, including education and training opportunities for higher-wage jobs.
Time away from the workforce also makes it harder for Latinas to save and invest in the future.
“Over the course of this pandemic, we have seen women of color struggle much more than white men, often because of their overrepresentation in low-wage sectors and because of their roles as primary caregivers to their families,” said Rodrigo Dominguez-Villegas of the UCLA LPPI.
Latinas Need Systemic Change
While economic recovery from the pandemic might alleviate some burdens placed on Latinas, the US desperately needs to address systemic issues for Latinas to prosper as much as their white counterparts.
For example, even if Latinas wanted to return to the workforce, they face a colossal wage gap, getting paid 31% less than white women, regardless of their job, where they live, or their education.
This wage gap, among other injustices, like discrimination and lack of access to affordable education, were preventing Latinas from prospering long before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Returning to pre-pandemic conditions in the US workforce will still leave millions of Latinas without access to true economic opportunity and social mobility, which ultimately would diminish the nation’s long-term competitiveness,” stated the UCLA LPPI report.
What Can We Do to Help Latinas?
US Democratic Sens. Patty Murray and Tim Kaine proposed a new plan in May 2022 that could potentially make childcare more affordable for millions of families.
“The childcare sector is on the brink of collapse and we have to act now to save it—or families across the country will pay the price,” Murray said in a news article on Kaine’s website. “I have spoken to so many moms and parents who had to quit their jobs entirely because they either couldn’t afford childcare or they couldn’t find it.”
“If we want to build communities and an economy where every family can thrive, we must ensure that parents aren’t locked out of the workforce because they can’t find affordable care for their kids,” Kaine added in the same news article.
The proposal outlines several ways to save families money on childcare, including increasing state funding for childcare assistance, expanding childcare center supply, improving childcare facilities, and raising compensation for early childhood educators.
You can also help promote affordable childcare and equitable opportunities for Latinas and all people.
Select your county and get a Health Equity Report Card by Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio. In your report card, you will see maps, data, and gauges to compare health equity issues, including socioeconomic status, to the rest of your state and nation.
You can email your Health Equity Report Card to local leaders to stimulate community change. Use the data in your materials or share on social media to raise awareness.