Community-Level Data Show How Deeply Unaffordable Child Care Is For NYC Families With Young Children

Press Releases

December 4, 2020

An estimated 93% of families with young children cannot afford center-based care for their infants and toddlers, and 80% cannot afford somewhat less expensive home-based care, according to a new analysis from Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York (CCC). While the cost burden of high-quality child care is a national crisis, the challenge for families in New York City is even greater where the cost of living is higher and economic inequalities deep.

“In New York and across the country, families and communities are struggling with job and income loss, food insecurity, and unaffordable health care and housing costs. This crisis is compounded by the dearth of affordable child care. The absence of affordable child care, leaves families with young children facing significant strain to maintain stable employment or re-enter the workforce,” said Jennifer March, CCC’s executive director. “Leaders at every level of government must take bold and immediate actions to significantly expand access to affordable infant and toddler care as a critical means through which to achieve healthy, young child development and to support parental employment stability and economic mobility.”

The brief examines child care cost burden and affordability and draws on data on the cost of center-based and home-based child care in New York City from the 2019 New York State Child Care Market Rate Survey Report. Center-based care for infant and toddlers is close to $19,000 a year, and care in licensed home-based settings averages over $10,000 annually based on the State survey.

Among other key findings in CCC’s analysis:

  • 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. The cost burden is as high as 65% in communities where median incomes are lower.
  • 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.
  • Only 1% of single parent families citywide can afford center-based care, and only 5% can afford home-based care when using a federally recommended affordability threshold of 7% of household income.
  • 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%).

“We cannot take for granted the essential role early care plays in both ensuring the healthy development of our youngest New Yorkers, as well as the employment stability and economic mobility of their caregivers,” said Bijan Kimiagar, associate executive director for research at CCC. “Families with young children live in every community in New York City, which means a more robust and affordable child care infrastructure is needed throughout the city.”

“For families in some communities throughout the city, such as East Harlem in Manhattan, or Brownsville in Brooklyn, or Morrisania in the Bronx, even less expensive home-based care poses a significant cost burden to families,” said CCC data analyst, Sophia Halkitis, who co-authored the analysis. “And when we look at the data for single parent families with young children in these communities, we see how access to high quality care opportunities are effectively inaccessible to the children and families who may benefit from them the most.”

Exacerbating the child care affordability crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced working families to find alternative child care options and forced many caregivers out of the workforce altogether. CCC’s brief draws on data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household PULSE survey to draw attention to:

  • Approximately 13% of families with children in New York City reported not working during the pandemic because they are caring for children who are not in school or day care.
  • Fifty-six percent of families are not working because of pandemic related furloughs, layoffs, or temporary or permanent business closures.
  • Twenty-seven percent of women between the ages of 25 and 44 years old who are out of work cite caring for children as the main reason for not working.

“Our analysis underscores the crucial need for child care to help families recover from the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Daryl Hornick-Becker, policy and advocacy associate at CCC. “We’re calling on federal, state, and local leaders to take action to ensure that child care is accessible and affordable for families with young children living in New York City.”

In light of findings in the report, CCC is calling on government leaders to prioritize the following set of recommendations:

  • 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 that could 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.

Findings from this analysis on the child care cost burden and affordability of child care, as well as hundreds of indicators on children and family well-being in New York City, are available on CCC’s interactive database,


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