Report: Child care costs more than college in much of U.S.

LOS ANGELES – No surprise for parents: Child care costs. And it’s getting costlier, a new report finds.

In more than half of states, it costs families more to put an infant in a child care center than to cover tuition and fees at a public college, according to a new analysis by Child Care Aware of America, a nonprofit advocacy group focused on child care access.

Child care costs have surged over the past year: The average cost of putting an infant into a child care center vaulted 2.7 percent between 2011 and 2012, the report found.

Putting a 4-year-old into such a center became 2.6 percent more expensive. And costs for putting tots into family child care homes increased even more steeply, the analysis showed.

Meanwhile, incomes haven’t kept up. Between 2011 and 2012, the national median household income increased only 1.7 percent, according to the American Community Survey.

The report offered a few more statistics to put the mind-boggling cost of child care into perspective: In every region of the country, the average cost of putting an infant into a child care center exceeded what families paid, on average, for food. From state to state, that average price ranges from $4,863 in Mississippi to $16,430 in Massachusetts, according to the report.

The burden is even heavier for families juggling more than one child: Putting a baby and a 4-year-old into a child care center cost more than the annual median rent in every single state, according to the new analysis.

The group surveyed state and local child care resource and referral offices about the average price of care for infants, 4-year-olds and schoolchildren, getting responses from 48 out of 50 states, plus the District of Columbia. In some states, including California, the numbers came from the latest available market rate surveys, which dated back several years.

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