Data journalist Christopher Ingraham has an interesting piece up at the Washington Post right now. We all know college is expensive, but when compared to day care costs we have a new reality:
“A report last fall by Child Care Aware America, a national organization of child-care resource and referral agencies, found that the annual cost of day care for an infant exceeds the average cost of in-state tuition and fees at public colleges in 31 states. The biggest gap is in New York, where day care will set you back nearly 15 grand, but in-state college tuition is only $6,500 — a difference of over $8,000. Massachusetts, Maryland, Colorado and Oregon also have large gaps, driven primarily by the high cost of day care in those states. At the other end of the spectrum is South Carolina, where in-state tuition is higher than the cost of day care by about $4,000 a year.”
Inhraham points out that the average age of child birth is now 26. This means that moms and dads are still paying on their own student loans by the time the first day care bill arrives. So, how are people coping? In particular, how is this impacting the most vulnerable among us?
“A report out Tuesday by the Pew Research Center finds that an increasing number of parents are simply avoiding child care costs by staying at home. Nearly 30 percent of moms stay at home now, up from only 23 percent in 1999. For many families it simply makes more financial sense for a parent to stay home with a young child than it does to incur thousands of dollars in day-care costs. Pew reports that only five percent of “U.S. married stay-at-home mothers (with working husbands) had at least a master’s degree and family income exceeding $75,000.” This suggests that stay-at-home motherhood is primarily increasing among the lower and middle classes, and that it’s driven primarily by having too little money, rather than too much of it.”
My first reaction was to worry about how this impacts the lower and middle class. Generally, the working poor do not have the luxury of one parent staying home with the kids. Two incomes are necessary in order to make ends meet. But Ingraham’s report shows that more and more Lower Class parents are staying home with kids, a fact that is driven “by having too little money, rather than too much of it.”
It’s not just a matter of whether or not childcare is cost effective for the, or whether staying at home is better for children, and so on. The working poor deal with much more fragile work situations. Their jobs are not as stable, and often the work is seasonal. Two jobs are essential because one job can, and often will, disappear – either completely or for big chunks of the year. Two income sources will make for a much more stable family among the working poor. But the price of day care is taking that option away. Middle class families experience a similar phenomenon.
What do you think of this?