Low Income and Impoverished Families Pay More Disproportionately for Child Care

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

December 1, 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

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.  

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