The Unaffordable Cost of Child Care Impedes Pandemic Recovery in New York City
December 3, 2020
High-quality early care for infants and toddlers is essential to children’s healthy development and supports parental employment and the economic mobility of families. Access to this essential service, however, is limited by its cost. In a new CCC analysis examining child care cost burden and affordability, we found that high cost of child care in both center-based and home-based programs presents an enormous financial burden on families across income levels and New York City community districts.
When using a federally recommended affordability threshold of 7% of household income, an estimated 93% of families with young children cannot afford center-based care in New York City, and 80% cannot afford somewhat less expensive home-based care.
Only 1% of single parent families citywide can afford center-based care, and only 5% can afford home-based care when using the same affordability threshold.
The annual cost of center-based child care for infants and toddlers consumes about 31% of median household income for all families with young children.
In several Bronx communities, the cost of center-based care consumes more than half of family median income: University Heights (65%), Morrisania/East Tremont (65%), Concourse/Highbridge (62%), Bedford Park (60%).
The annual cost of home-based care, while lower, still consumes 17% of median household income for all families with young children. The cost burden is as high as 36% in communities where median incomes are lower.
For families with young children headed by single parents, who have a lower median income compared to married couples, the annual cost burden is 54% for center-based and 30% for home-based care.
The absence of affordable child care strains the ability of families with young children to maintain stable employment or re-enter the workforce. For this reason, ensuring access to infant and toddler care must be a priority in COVID-19 pandemic response and recovery efforts at every level of government. CCC is calling on federal, state, and local policymakers to take action to ensure that child care is accessible and affordable for families with young children in New York City.
Our recommendations include:
The next federal stimulus package must be robust and provide direct state and local aid, and the incoming Biden-Harris administration must act on their campaign platform including nationwide universal pre-Kindergarten for 3 and 4-year-olds, an $8,000 child care tax credit per child for families making less than $125,000 a year, and most notably, expanded access to subsidies to ensure infant toddler care is affordable;
New York State must immediately expedite distribution of grants available through CARES Funds to ensure early care providers survive the pandemic, and make all future grants easy to access and award them upfront;
New York State must invest in child care subsidies and significantly expand access to affordable infant and toddler care by raising eligibility thresholds statewide, reducing family copayments to standardize them across counties, and prioritizing access to care for marginalized families, including families who are unemployed and seeking work, pursuing higher education, or have experienced domestic violence or homelessness;
New York State must also reform the Empire State Child Tax Credit to ensure children under and up to the age of 4 qualify and that the credit for younger children is more robust;
New York City must protect against budget cuts to child care capacity as well as capacity losses from newly awarded contracts for early childhood education and care; and
Future city leaders must pursue a bold agenda for high quality early care and education with universal access to full day Pre-K programs for 4-year-olds and 3-year-olds, and leveraging federal, state, and city resources to dramatically expand access to affordable full day infant and toddler care, through increased subsidies and local child care tax credits.