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Why do parents spend so much on child care, yet early childhood educators earn so little?

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Tercha, Jessica
Publication Date: 
10 Jul 2018


For more than 10 years, Child Care Aware® of America (CCAoA) has reported on the unaffordability of child care for parents in states across the country. We’ve been expanding that reporting by diving deeper into county-level costs and exploring national, state-and community-level financing solutions to provide working families with some relief. Even as we’ve kept discussions on the unaffordability of child care going strong, we are often asked, “If parents are paying too much of their household budgets on child care, why are child care providers still struggling to make ends meet?” It’s a good question – one that I’ve had since I started CCAoA!

We’re excited to announce the release of a new explainer video, “Why Do Parents Spend So Much on Child Care, Yet Early Childhood Educators Earn So Little?” This video is the result of a months-long collaboration between CCAoA and the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment to provide an answer to this question. Our organizations combined decades of experience in researching and promoting quality child care practices to dive deeper into the issue by using an animated video that explains the issue with simple language and relatable characters.

In this video, we meet our fictional family with young expecting parents, their toddler Jayden and Jayden’s child care provider, Sonia. Using CCAoA’s national average cost of child care as the cost of child care for Jayden, we then estimated the cost of rent and utilities, classroom materials and labor for lead teachers, teacher assistants and a center director utilizing cost models and reporting. By breaking down the true cost of child care for this example program, our characters help to demonstrate why, with already unaffordable costs to parents, child care providers make so little money.

Families cannot afford to bear the financial burden of child care any longer. Child care providers across the country are struggling to stay in business and should have livable wages. We face a worsening child care crisis if we do not act now. Our message is clear:

  • No family should pay more than 7 percent of their household budget, but many families across the country are paying much more. Learn about the cost of child care in your state.
  • Ensure all teachers have better compensation and workplace support. Explore the early childhood workforce landscape.
  • Make your voice heard! Use our advocacy tip sheet to learn more about using this video to advocate for families and child care workers. And don’t forget to share our video and tip sheet with your partners and other advocates with our share kit!