Want to go broke slowly? Have a kid.
Children are expensive. They need food, diapers, clothes and wipes. And then when they get older they still need the food and the clothes, but they often want to go to college, too. It's enough to make any parent long for the relatively inexpensive days of a child-free lifestyle.
And the real bad news? The costs of raising children start right away. If neither of the parents can afford to stay home with their children, they'll have to investigate childcare. Unfortunately, some parents might find that they can't afford not to stay home with their kids, either.(See the Infographic)
Is it Childcare or College Tuition?
In 36 states it costs two-parent households more than 10 percent of their median income to pay for infant childcare. That's a lot of money. And it can make parents' household budgets seem awfully tight.
In 14 states, two-parent households must again spend more than 10 percent of their household incomes to keep a 4-year-old in a childcare center.
Think about this. Are you planning to have children? Are you waiting for the birth of an infant? Or are you already struggling to raise, and handle the costs of, young children? If so, then you know just how difficult a decision parents face when they have to decide whether it makes more financial sense for them to return to work or stay home with the children.
The high cost of childcare, with no relief in sight from the federal government, makes this decision even tougher.
Where You Live Matters
What's often overlooked when it comes to the expenses of childcare is that it matters where you live. In some cases, it matters greatly.
Consider parents who live in urban areas. It costs them an average of $2,247 more a year to send their infant children to an urban childcare center than it would to send them to the same center in a rural area.(See the Infographic)
The same holds true for the parents of older children. It costs them an average of $1,369 more a year to send their 4-year-olds to urban childcare centers than it does to send them to rural-based centers.
Worst of all, this is a problem that isn't getting better. Parents need high-quality childcare. But they don't need to spend a fortune on it. And as the infographic attached to this story shows, in many states parents are spending gobs of money to send their children to childcare centers.
Keeping Mothers out of the Workforce?
It's hard to say whether the spiraling costs of childcare are keeping mothers from entering the workforce. But some of the nation's employment statistics suggest that, yes, maybe new mothers are opting to stay home with their children because they can't afford quality childcare.
Consider this statistic: Only 57.8 percent of mothers with children under the age of 6 were working full-time in 2009. In 2008, this figure stood at 59.5 percent.
Of course, there are many reasons why this percentage would fall. The national unemployment rate is dreadfully high, for one thing. But it's hard not to wonder what role rising childcare costs are playing.
The big question is this: What can you, the average parent, do about this? It's clear that Congress is too busy with other matters to figure out a solution to out-of-control childcare costs. Maybe it's time, instead, that overburdened parents demand that their legislators get busy trying to craft some way to encourage businesses to provide more childcare options for their employees. Community action might be the only way to address this growing problem.