Research on cost of child care highlighted


Paul Atkinson

FiveThirtyEight, an award-winning political news blog, published an article highlighting anaylsis by Chris Herbst, an associate professor in the School of Public Affairs. The analysis challeges previous conclusions reached on the cost of child care in the United States. Using Census data, Herbst suggests that from 1990 to 2011 the cost of child care rose by 14 percent, far lower than previously thought. A Census Bureau report titled "Who's Minding the Kids?" had found that parents paid an average of $148 a week for day care in 2011, a 39 percent increase from an average of $106 in 1990.

Herbst used the same data set as the Census report, the Survey of Income and Program Participation. But instead of using average costs, Herbst suggests a more accurate reflection of child care costs would come from looking at the median amount spent. Herbst argues while poor families pay roughly the same amount for day care, more affluent families are paying much more for what he calls the "Cadillac of child care" which can make using the average cost misleading.

The article says a second, and perhaps his strongest argument, is that instead of calculating child care costs on a weekly basis, Herbst says it should be calculated on an hourly basis that better reflects the increased hours that mothers are working. On that basis, the cost of day care rose from $2.27 an hour in 1990 to $2.59 an hour, a 14 percent increase.

To read the story, click here.