Kids gather around a teacher at preschool

New Survey Shows Middle and Low Income Parents Struggling To Find Child Care They Can Afford: As a Result, 62% of Respondents Had to Cut Back on Work Hours

New Data Shows Dire Need for Affordable Child Care and Universal Preschool, 2 Years into Pandemic

According to a new survey of parents of kids under 5 from ParentsTogether Action, a family advocacy nonprofit with more than 3 million members nationwide, families are struggling to find reliable child care, often having to either make tradeoffs on other expenses or sacrifice work hours to care for their children themselves. 

Parents and caregivers with children under 5 expressed widespread concern about their access to child care, and conveyed strong support for new legislation, proposed by Democrats, to lower child care costs, enact universal preschool for 3 and 4 year olds, help ensure there are enough quality child care facilities, and boost wages for child care workers. 92% of respondents said they support Congress taking this robust action to rescue a child care industry in crisis.

The survey responses make it clear that not only are parents having to regularly cut basic family expenses in order to prioritize child care, but many parents’ work hours have been negatively impacted. 62% of respondents who struggle to find reliable child care said they or a member of their household had to cut back on hours or leave a job because they couldn’t find child care within their budget. 

72% said child care has been even harder to find during the pandemic, with childcare either being too expensive (88%), unavailable (53%), or of poor quality (50%). 

One in four parents surveyed reported spending more than 15% of their income on child care.

When respondents were asked if they had had to make financial trade offs in order to pay for child care, 42% said yes

Broken down further:

  • 30% of respondents said they’ve had to cut back on food expenses to pay for adequate child care
  • 30% of respondents said they were unable to pay their full utility bills
  • 20% said they were unable to pay their full rent/mortgage 
  • 49% of respondents said they had to stop saving
  • 47% said they had to forego paying for kids activities/enrichment
  • More than half of parents said they had to cut back on leisure activities

In the last few months, as the Omicron variant tore through the country, it was often parents who were most affected, with 53% of respondents saying they’ve experienced closures in child care facilities since December 2021. And 45% of respondents said they or a family member have lost work because of these childcare disruptions. 

81% of survey respondents had household incomes of less than $100,000; 74% of respondents had household incomes of less than $75,000. 

“Families across the country are in crisis as the challenge and burden of accessing affordable, quality child care reaches a breaking point. Parents are having to make impossible decisions on whether to cut back on hours or resign from work, not pay bills, or use savings in order to cover the high cost of child care,” said co-Director of ParentsTogether Action, Justin Ruben. “It is long past time for Congress to step in and relieve American families by passing a child care rescue package that will allow both parents and their kids to thrive.”