Last updated: May 31, 2012 by

Finding affordable & quality child care is one of the most difficult challenges single mothers face. In many cases, the average cost of child care is far out of reach for a single mom, especially for those with two or more children.

In 41 states it costs single-mother households more than 10 percent of their median income to pay for infant childcare.1However, when it comes to the expenses of childcare, where you live matters. In some states, it matters greatly.

According to a recent report by the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies, or NACCRRA, the cost of sending a 4 year old to a child care in Massachusetts exceeds 45 percent of the median income of a single-mother family. That’s a lot of money; consuming almost half a family’s income.

And this forces many working mothers to make hard choices – whether it makes financial sense to return to work or stay home with the children. Unfortunately, some parents might find that they can’t afford not to stay home with their kids, either.

The cost of care vs family income

To better understand the impact of child care fees on single-mothers, NACCRRA compares the cost of care to family income and rank the state from least affordable to most affordable.

Here, affordability is considered by dividing the average cost of care as a percentage of state median income2 where the least affordable state has the highest child care cost compared to family income. Yet this does not mean that the least affordable state have the most expensive child care, only that the cost of care as a percentage of income is highest when compared to all states.

Top 10 Least-Affordable States for Center-Based Infant Care
StateChild Care as a Percentage of State Median IncomeState Median Income for Single Mother Families*Average Annual Cost of Care
District of Columbia69.4%$26,244$18,200
Massachusetts58.7%$28,125$16,500
New York52.6%$25,958$13,650
Minnesota47.5%$27,188$12,900
Montana46.9%$19,399$9,100
Illinois46.8%$25,239$11,800
Pennsylvania46.7%$24,176$11,300
Colorado46.6%$26,630$12,400
Oregon46.6%$23,093$10,750
Hawaii44.4%$28,401$12,600
Top 10 Least-Affordable States for Center-Based Care for a 4-Year-Old
StateChild Care as a Percentage of State Median IncomeState Median Income for Single Mother Families*Average Annual Cost of Care
New York56.9%$18,540$10,550
District of Columbia52.8%$26,630$14,050
Wisconsin49.0%$18,478$9,050
Massachusetts45.6%$26,754$12,200
Colorado34.3%$26,244$9,000
Minnesota35.1%$28,179$9,900
Maine29.7%$25,782$7,650
Vermont28.9%$29,430$8,500
Oregon27.2%$30,551$8,300
Montana25.4%$30,680$7,800
Top 10 Least-Affordable States for a School-Age Child
StateChild Care as a Percentage of State Median IncomeState Median Income for Single Mother Families*Average Annual Cost of Care
New York40.1%$25,958$10,400
Wisconsin33.9%$24,178$8,200
Kentucky31.0%$18,692$5,800
Montana29.4%$19,399$5,700
Nebraska26.6%$22,217$5,900
Rhode Island26.5%$25,281$6,700
Iowa25.0%$23,173$5,800
Hawaii24.3%$28,401$6,900
Arizona21.5%$26,754$5,750
Idaho20.9%$22,265$4,650

References:

  1. Source: The High Cost of Child Care []
  2. *State median income of families with children, from the U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey 2005-2009 five-year estimates. []