District of Columbia residents may be far better off enrolling their kids in childcare centers away from home, as average costs run too high downtown.
According to the latest figures from Economic Policy Institute (EPI), monthly cost of childcare for a family of four — two kids, one toddler and one school-age, plus two parents — is nearly twice as high in the District compared to the average in the greater metropolitan area.
The D.C.-based research center says childcare costs the same family as much as $3,279 in the capital. Figures elsewhere in close proximity speak loudly in comparison: $1,635 in the city of Alexandria, $1,752 in Fairfax County, $1,545 in Montgomery County and only $1,367 in Prince George’s County.
No matter in which direction one leaves the capital, therefore, the financial burden of raising children significantly goes down.
Calculating the average childcare cost in a specific location is actually controversial, as much as it is difficult.
That is, firstly, because different costs apply at different ages. And secondly, there are also differences between center-based care, for which parents pay institutions to look after their children, and more traditional family-based care, which may also result in an opportunity cost, if families are deprived of the possible income their children’s caregiver could have made had he, or as is more often, she worked outside.
That said, comparisons still testify to regional disparities for as long as the same criteria are uniformly applied across the aisle.
One particular organization that compiles childcare cost data from across the U.S. and publicizes results of its own calculations is Child Care Aware of America (CCAA), an online advisory group. And its 2018 report paints the same grim picture for D.C. with respect to not only the neighboring counties and cities, but also the rest of the country.
According to the CCAA report, for instance, an annual center-based childcare of an infant costs more than $23,000 in D.C, the highest in all of the U.S. The cost of the same service, however, is below $15,000 both in Maryland and Virginia with the national average being even less than $10,000.
The same, jaw-dropping differences apply to older kids, too: The cost of center-based childcare of a four-year-old per year is north of $18,000 in the District, but roughly $10,000 in both Maryland and Virginia. The national average, on the other hand, is about $6,000.
The cost of a rather family-based childcare is only slightly less intimidating in the nation’s capital. It costs more than $16,000 for an infant and over $14,000 for a four-year-old. Both rates stand far above Virginia and Maryland figures, as well as the national average, again.
No ‘Affordable’ Childcare in US
In 2016, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) set seven percent as the new standard of childcare affordability. So, wherever families pay more than seven percent of their income on childcare, it was from then on officially unaffordable.
Yet when the CCAA incorporated median income figures into its data of childcare costs, it appeared that nowhere in the U.S. had actually a lower ratio. The D.C., however, fared somewhat better than in nominal terms.
A married couple in the District, according to CCAA calculations, spends 14.6 percent of its income on center-based infant care. Surprisingly, it was no longer at the top of the list, after having been demoted nine ranks by the states with higher proportions led by California (18.6 percent), Massachusetts (16.8 percent) and Oregon (16.4 percent).
Nonetheless, the neighboring states of Virginia and Maryland still appeared better off compared to D.C. with 13.4 percent and 12.7 percent, respectively, explaining why there is an incentive for the District’s parents to choose neighboring areas for childcare.