The Most Expensive States for Childcare
Federal childcare assistance included in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 ended on September 30, 2023. Our analysis highlights the cities and states where parents may be most affected.
- U.S. families who pay for childcare spend an average of $325.39 per week on care in 2023.
- Weekly childcare expenditures are highest in Nevada ($493.46), New Jersey ($442.19), Washington D.C. ($427.90), Hawaii ($413.19) and Washington ($408.67).
- San Francisco ($510.11) had the highest average cost of weekly childcare among major cities included in the study.
- Weekly childcare costs were lowest in Iowa ($182.42), Mississippi ($203.38) and Oklahoma ($209.41).
U.S. families spend an average of 27% of their household income on childcare.1 And as pandemic-era childcare assistance expired on September 30, 2023, millions of families may soon begin feeling the pinch.
We examined the latest available data from the U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey to identify the states and cities in which residents pay the most for childcare and may be the most affected by the expiration of federal funding for childcare that was included in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
The chart below shows the average weekly household spending on childcare in each state.
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Families who use paid childcare in San Francisco are spending more than $510 per week on average to do so.
The chart below shows the average weekly spending on childcare for 14 select cities included in the study.
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Our analysis of the Census Bureau data revealed some demographic disparities in weekly childcare spending.
Americans aged 25 to 39 had the highest average weekly spending on childcare at $332.17.
Asian Americans spent the most on weekly childcare ($476.70) than any other race or ethnicity measured. Black parents had lower average weekly childcare expenditures ($305.36) than any other racial group.
Married couples spent the most on childcare per week with an average of $347.36. Parents who are divorced or separated reported the lowest average, at $259.47 per week.
Those with a bachelor’s degree or higher averaged $377.77 in weekly childcare spending. Those with less than a high school degree reported spending an average of $254.15 per week.
Those who identify as gay or lesbian reported higher weekly spending on childcare – with an average of $507.26 per week – than other groups who provided information about their sexual orientation. Survey respondents who identified as straight spent an average of $322.10.
Households with incomes of less than $25,000 per year reported a higher average weekly cost of childcare ($295.92) than households with incomes between $100,000 and $149,999 ($275.57).
Weekly spending was lowest among households with incomes between $25,000 and $34,999 ($259.48) and highest among households with incomes of $200,000 and above ($466.58).
Those on active military duty reported $675.32 in average weekly childcare spending. Those with no active duty members in the household spent $320.43 on average.
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 was part of a federal stimulus that included a range of health and economic measures. It became effective on March 11, 2021, and included $24 billion of aid to help stabilize the U.S. childcare industry, which had been significantly affected during the pandemic.
The spending expired on Sept. 30, 2023, and more than three million children are projected to lose access to daycare as an estimated 70,000 centers begin to close.
- Nearly 16,000 daycare centers permanently closed between December 2019 and March 2021.
- COVID-19 restrictions and a transition to a work-from-home setup for many workers ultimately upended an industry that was already on the brink due to high operating costs and low wages.
- The closure of so many childcare centers has created fewer options for parents coupled with higher costs and long wait lists due to the diminished competition. More than half of Americans live in a childcare desert.
The aid directed to childcare centers as a result of the American Rescue Act helped offset revenue losses and operating costs and prevented even more childcare centers from shuttering their doors.
The data used for this report came from the U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey, specifically Week 57 (May 17, 2023), the most recent iteration of the survey that included a question about childcare costs and is therefore the most recent available data.