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Summer Child Care Takes Big Bite Out of Family Income, Analysis Finds

As the school year comes to a close, many families may be left scrambling to find safe, reliable, summer child care that they can afford, a new report suggests.

A new 50-state analysis by the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank, finds that the typical family—defined as two parents and two children with a household income equal to each state's median income for such a household—spends 20 percent of their summer income on just five weeks of summer care.

"On average, we found that parents are paying a little over $3,000 [nationally] on summer care for two children," said Cristina Novoa, the organization's policy analyst, who conceived the report and did the analysis. "We know that this is just unaffordable for most families."

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The cost of summer care varies wildly by location. The report ranks Nevada and New York as the two least affordable states for summer learning. In Nevada, parents could expect to spend 51 percent of median summer income on child care, which amounts to more than $6,700 for the average family. In New York, it would amount to 35 percent, or just over $6,000.

The high cost of care may be forcing some families to go without.

The report lists data from the U.S. Census' Survey of Income and Program Population that show the number of children without regular care goes up in the summer months. For preschoolers with working mothers, the share of children without regular care went from 11 percent in the spring of 2005 to 42 percent in the summer of 2006. For grade-school children with working mothers, it went from 37 percent to 49 percent.

Negative Consequences

Novoa argues children from low-income families are hurt the most by this.

"When they're unable to access care, that contributes to what's called the summer-learning slide," said Novoa. "Kids who have more limited access to high-quality care and high-quality early-learning opportunities, they're disproportionally disadvantaged."

Novoa found that most parents reported signing their children up for summer programs that lasted four to six weeks while the typical summer vacation runs 10 to 12 weeks.

"When you have summer care that is so unaffordable that parents can't afford to keep their child in a program continuously and they have to rely on these patchwork systems, that can be really destructive for children's development and their learning," said Novoa. "If children are cycling in and out of different child-care arrangements, that helps create these gaps in learning."

The report cites the Child Care for Working Families Act as a possible solution to the lack of affordable summer child care. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., would provide child-care assistance to low- and middle-income families with children younger than 13 and ensure that no one pays more than 7 percent of their income for child care.

The report was compiled with state-level data from the Afterschool Alliance's 2014 America After 3PM Survey.

Image by Getty


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