Shocking Daycare Rate List Goes Viral & Shines a Light on Child Care Crisis in America

Parents everywhere are relating to these palpitation-inducing prices that rival those of rent or a mortgage payment.

Although many parents initially underestimate how much they'll need to spend, parents quickly find that the cost of raising a baby in its first year is pretty darn steep: around $21,000 (for a household earning $40,000) and $52,000 (for one bringing home $200,000), according to a recent survey by personal finance website NerdWallet. Everyone's child care situation is unique, but according to the Center for American Progress, almost one-quarter (23.4 percent) of children under the age of five are in daycare centers, nurseries, and preschools. And the rising cost of those institutions is downright gasp- and perhaps even panic-inducing for parents.

The sad fact of the matter is that although, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), child care is considered affordable if it costs families no more than 7 percent of their income, across nearly every category—whether it be marital status, race, age, education level, or income—families paying for child care spend, on average, a greater share of their income than the HHS benchmark of affordability.

A Brooklyn dad named Mark Popham recently tweeted a list of rates for infants from a day care in his old neighborhood. He shared in follow-up tweets, "This is way more than we have ever paid for daycare. [W]e're going to be paying as much as our rent, every month, on childcare until Izzy goes to public pre-k. love it! great system, amazing country. no problems i can foresee with this economic system at all. Anyway if you're wondering why millennials aren't having kids, welp."

Many Twitter users commiserated with Popham. "Our 2 kids were 4 years apart so we survived double rates, but it was harsh," one wrote. "Had to put student loans on hold multiple times. I think we may never own a home at this rate."

And if you're thinking what Popham shared is just New York-specific pricing, consider what one parent in Arizona noted: "I live this right now.. and I have triplets. Public Pre-K will cost me $30k this year."

One mom noted that the failure of day cares to pay their employees fairly is a sticking point for her, writing, "My daycare tuition would be 1000x more bearable if I knew the wonderful staff and teachers were getting a fair portion of it."

Another, who identified as a daycare employee, shared, "I work at a daycare with very similar monthly rates. At full enrollment, my classroom will have 20 children paying this much (per month!!). My monthly pay is...substantially less than the rate for one child. I don’t know where all that money is going, but it isn’t to teachers."

Motherly points out that although parents pay an arm and a leg for daycare, many qualified employees are leaving the industry, due to low wages that maximize profit margins. Research suggests that turnover is often higher (and wages are lower) at for-profit centers compared to non-profit centers, which inevitably affects the quality of care.

A bit of heartening news: Proposed legislation, entitled The Child Care for Working Families Act, would ensure that no family under 150% of state median income pays more than seven percent of their income on child care. Families would pay their fair share for care on a sliding scale, regardless of the number of children they have. The bill would also support universal access to high-quality preschool programs for all 3- and 4-year olds. Finally, the bill would significantly improve compensation and training for the child care workforce to ensure that our nation’s teachers and caregivers have the support they need, as well as the children they are caring for, to thrive. It was reintroduced in the Senate earlier this year.

Here's hoping legislators, including those campaigning on universal child care, hear the cries of parents from coast to coast like Popham. They deserve action now.

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