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Cost of child care expensive and rising, study says

The costs of child care are rising, and many American families are spending more on child care than the cost of rent, food or college education, according to a new study from Child Care Aware of America, a nonprofit information resource for parents and childcare providers. The report said that the cost of child care rose nearly 3 percent last year.

The cost of child care varies widely by state. Full-time care for an infant in a child care center ranged from $4,863 in Mississippi to $16,430 in Massachusetts.

The report also found that “Child care fees for two children (an infant and a 4-year-old) in a child care center exceeded annual median rent payments in every state”; “In every region of the United States, average child care fees for an infant in a child care center were higher than the average amount that families spent on food”; and “In 31 states and the District of Columbia, the average annual average cost for an infant in center-based care was higher than a year’s tuition and fees at a four-year public college.”

The cost of raising a child has been increasing, and the USDA now estimates that it will cost $241,080 to raise a child to adulthood, as Lois Collins at the Deseret News reported in August.

According to Bryce Covert at ThinkProgress, the rising costs of child care impact a large number of Americans. “Nearly 11 million children under the age of 5 spend time in child care each week. That’s thanks to the fact that nearly half of today’s families have two working parents and a quarter are headed by single parents, necessitating that children have somewhere to go when their parents have to go to work,” he wrote.

“Child care is an increasingly difficult financial burden for working families to bear,” said Lynette M. Fraga, Ph.D., executive director of Child Care Aware of America, in a press release accompanying the study. “Unlike all other areas of education investment, including higher education, families pay the majority of costs for early education. Too many families are finding it impossible to access and afford quality child care that doesn’t jeopardize children’s safety and healthy development.”

Fraga told CNN Money that when families have to make hard economic decisions about what child care they can afford, they may end up choosing non-licensed options, which are cheaper, but don't have to meet health and safety standards.