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Reporting on child care and the stress on U.S. families

November 8, 2019

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According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human  (HHS), working families shouldn’t spend more than 7% of their income on child care. But there isn’t one state in the country where parents can afford to follow that recommendation. By May 2019, child care costs ate up 10% of family budgets for working families with children under the age of 5—40% more than the guidelines recommended by HHS, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. 

The financial impact of the cost of child care is stressing out families and impacting employers. Immerse yourself in the data and then ask one or all of the following questions to deliver a personal finance story that will help your working families to address their child care crisis:

How much are your readers paying for child care?

In 2017, working parents paid an average of $9,000-$9,600 for child care, according to Child Care Aware. In the advocacy group’s interactive map, there is no state where working parents paid less than 7%. Ask your low- and middle-class readers who pay for child care to participate in a panel. How much have their child care costs increased over the past few years? In Care.com’s 2019 annual survey of 4,000 working parents, two-thirds said they spent more than in the previous year. More than 70% or working families paid more than 10% of their income on child care, while 40% more than 15%. What are your readers paying?

How does your state compare on child care costs? 

Check out this state-by-state analysis from the Economic Policy Institute to start your research on child care costs in your state. Ask your panel how they are meeting increased costs. Include a representative from your state’s health and human services department and a Certified Public Accountant in your discussion, to make sure working families are taking advantage of every benefit they qualify for. Design graphics that reflect what’s happening with your state and with your readers.

What impact does child care have on local employers?

Few employers offer child care, but they end up paying in lost productivity when workers’ child care arrangements fall through. How much does that cost local employers? Include employers of small, medium, and large businesses, those that offer/don’t offer, child care benefits in your discussion. In the Care.com survey, 70% used sick days and over half (56%) came in late. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), of employers offer their employees dependent care reimbursement accounts, and 11% of workers had access to workplace-funded child care. How many of the readers take advantage of these benefits? Why or why not?


  • Dorianne Perrucci

    Since 2001, Dorianne's freelance bylines have appeared in leading print and digital news outlets, including The New York Times, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, TheStreet.com, The Star-Ledger and NJ Biz. During the financial crisis of 2007-2009, Do...

    View all posts

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