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Survey: Child Care Costs Strain Families

Washington, DC – Most American families with children under 5 have had to make significant changes to their household budgets to afford child care, struggle to balance the demands of work and home life, and have difficulty finding quality care within their budgets. These findings come from a new national survey conducted by Morning Consult for the Bipartisan Policy Center and published today.

More than half of all parents surveyed (54%) said it was difficult to find quality child care within their budget, including 18% who said it was very difficult. The challenge was especially clear for parents making less than $50,000 a year, 61% of whom reported struggling to locate quality care they could afford.

“Parents and their experiences must inform research and policymaking, and their voices must be at the forefront of every aspect of this effort,” said Linda Smith, director of BPC’s Early Childhood Initiative. “This survey illuminates realities for parents: child care is a ‘must-have’ for employment, but it also forces parents to make financial decisions and trade-offs, and significantly impacts their future family and financial planning.”

The survey also finds parents are tightening their belts in many ways to afford child care:

  • 59% have cut back spending on everyday essential purchases like food, clothing, and gas
  • 75% have cut back on non-essential spending
  • 57% have delayed or decreased spending for emergencies

When it comes to participating in the workforce, or balancing work and life, parents reported significant challenges:

  • 68% said child care challenges affected their ability to stay in the workforce, with 45% of women and 33% of men saying finding quality child care had a significant impact on their decision
  • 30% reduced work hours to limit child care costs, while 55% have worked overtime to afford care
  • 42% have changed jobs to find more flexible hours in response to child care costs and challenges

The survey was conducted from October 11-17, 2019, among a national sample of 800 parents of children under the age of 5 currently paying for child care and with at least one household member who is employed. The interviews were conducted online. Results have a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.