The Child Care Crisis Disrupts Millions of Parents’ Jobs Every Year

Supermajority Education Fund

March 2, 2020

According to the Center for American Progress (CAP), one in ten parents of children five years and younger had to quit, turn down, or change their jobs because of childcare problems between 2016 and 2018. The numbers vary across states—it’s as low as five percent in Kansas—but the problem persists across the country. Quality childcare in America is both scarce and hard to afford. 

On average, parents with children under the age of five spend $250 a week on childcare, according to CAP. CAP also reports that this high cost leaves parents with a difficult choice: Either they have to pay for expensive childcare, settle for cheaper but lower-quality care, or alter their jobs or schedules so they can take care of their children. Cristina Novoa, senior policy analyst for early childhood policy at CAP, told Supermajority News that some child care businesses also only offer care for part of the day, which causes parents to have to adjust their workdays. In 2016, nearly one million parents in the U.S. did not find a childcare program that fit their needs at all, she added.

These less than ideal options are contributing to some people’s decisions about whether to have kids at all. In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control released a report that stated that there had been a two percent drop in babies born since 2017. A 2018 survey from The New York Times found that 39 percent of its participants, who were between the ages of 20 and 45, decided not to have kids because they couldn’t afford childcare or didn’t have enough paid family leave ( the U.S. is one of the only countries in the world that doesn’t require workplaces to offer paid leave). 

When parents have to scale back their hours or even quit to care for their children, it doesn’t just hurt their families, but the country’s economy. CAP reports that the economy loses $57 billion in annual lost revenue, wages, and productivity due to parents and caregivers who make this choice

Single moms, however, take the biggest toll when it comes to salary and work hours. The CAP study found that the employment rate fell from 84 percent among mothers who found child care to 64 percent for those who did not. In this study, mothers said finding reliable and affordable child care would be a key factor in their ability to take steps to increase their earnings and advance their careers. 

“This means providing for those children is difficult,” Novoa said. “Without access to formal child care, single mothers typically rely on a patchwork of care from family and friends, which can be inconsistent and hard to sustain.”