Early Childhood

Child Care Costs More Than College in Illinois

By Julie Blair — July 09, 2013 1 min read

If you’ve just had a baby in the Chicago area and are planning to place her in a child-care center full time when you return to work, be ready for sticker shock: You’ll pay about $12,200 for one year of care, a new report says—roughly $1,016 per month.

That’s $200 more than you’ll likely pay for a year of in-state college tuition in Illinois —and more than you’d likely pay for housing over a four-week time frame in Cook County, where the city of Chicago is located.

While these numbers are specific to an expensive area of the country, they do give us insight to one major expense in the life of a young family, concludes a new report by the Illinois Action for Children, a Chicago-based advocacy organization.

Child care does get cheaper as the child ages, but the figure is still stunning: The cost of full-time care for 3- and 4-year-olds in a Cook County center scenario is $8,956 for one year—about $746 per month.

And while you’re considering those whopping numbers, check this one out: $9.28.

That’s the average amount of money earned hourly by a child-care providers in America, according to the federal government—slightly above the federal minimum wage of $9 an hour.

Doing the math, then, full-time child-care workers earn $371.20 on average before taxes—about $1,484.80 per month.

Interestingly, the very folks who care for our youngest children would pay all but $468.80 of their own salaries to place their own babies in the Cook County centers in which they work.

Child-care workers who are parents to both an infant and a preschooler would have a bill of $1,762—much more than they actually make.

With numbers like these, is there any wonder why the field of early-childhood education—which is populated mostly by women—has such a high turnover rate?

Is the cost of American child care too high? For whom? What should we pay those that stand in for us as parents while we work?

What do you think?

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.