Low Income and Impoverished Families Pay More Disproportionately for Child Care

By the Carsey Institute, Annie E. Casey Foundation, W. K. Kellogg Foundation

December 2, 2010


This policy brief highlights a sobering reality that many working families know all to well: Child care in America is expensive. But the newsflash is this: Relative to their wealthier counterparts, poorer households devote five times as much of their paychecks to cover child care costs. This data-packed document makes a quick and convincing case for investing in a vital lifeline — child care subsidies — to aid the nation’s neediest families.

Table of Contents

Key Takeaway

The bottom line: Poorer families spend more of their paychecks on child care

America’s poorest working families spend 32% of their household incomes on child care. By comparison, their wealthier counterparts devote just 7 to 8% of their paychecks to cover child care costs. Otherwise put: Households that are already struggling to make ends meet are also shouldering the heaviest financial burden when it comes to obtaining safe and reliable care for their children.

Findings & Stats

CI Low Income Families Pay More Fig 3 2010

Subsidies Work

Child care subsidies helped families regain 5% of their paychecks; recipient households spent just 14% of their income on child care costs. By comparison, families that did not receive assistance devoted 19% of their paychecks to child care.

CI Low Income Families Pay More Table1 2010

Country vs. City Families

Though rural families pay less for child care each month, they also earn less. As a result, rural and urban families spend a similar proportion of their family income on child care.

Statements & Quotations