As if parents did not have enough on their plates already, a new report has found that no state in the union provides affordable childcare for those under five years of age.
The report, published this week by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, revealed that annual child care payments in several states are higher than college tuition rates, which can be comparable to a third of a working mother’s income, says Danielle Paquette, reporting for The Washington Post.
In New York, the yearly cost of full-time daycare is currently about $14,500. In Massachusetts the cost is approximately $16,500, in California $11,628, and in Illinois $12,500. In metropolitan areas, which includes many of the most competitive work centers, the price can be much more. For example, in Washington, D.C., the annual cost averages around $22,000.
In the last three decades, weekly spending on child-care for families with a working mom has almost doubled, as reported by the Census Bureau. In 22 states, daycare is higher than the average annual income of single working mothers. Ariane Hegewisch, an economist with IWPR, says that the price and the unreliability of child-care often keeps a large number of new moms from being successful at their jobs.
In fact, some mothers just have to quit, but then find the equal pay battle is even worse when they return to the work force. Other mothers have to take jobs for which they are over-qualified, or part-time jobs so that their hours can be more flexible. Ironically, part-time workers are less likely to have any kind of paid leave.
“When we discuss the gender pay gap, people will quickly say: But don’t women make choices?” Hegewisch said. “Don’t they choose to take time out? Our report is about how our choices are structured — and structured into a vicious cycle.”
Alabama has the lowest annual daycare cost at $5,547, which is approximately one-sixth of the average working mother’s income. Using this measure, Alabama has the least expensive child care options in the US, while moms in Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New York have to use a third of their yearly income. This is why a majority of Americans rely on relatives to care for their children, according to the report. One in four mothers uses an array of resources to assure their child is cared for during her work hours.
Even though families can qualify for government assistance for child care under the federal qualifications enumerated in 2011, only 17% of children who are eligible actually received their subsidies, the report found. One reason is that long lines, and that parents’ jobs are in jeopardy because of the time spent waiting, have hindered enrollment.
The report, entitled the Status of Women in the States, says that mothers who live in West Virginia, Idaho, and Mississippi have an especially hard time with child care. However, no states received a grade of A, only a handful off states received a B, and the rest of the states received Cs, Ds, and Fs.
The US, says Maggie Mertens of Refinery 29, is one of the only counties worldwide without a national maternity leave policy, along with being one of a few high-income countries with no universal paid sick leave. The organization Make It Work suggests the way to change these issues is to target the 2016 presidential candidates who have included these themes in their policy platforms.
Feminist activist Gloria Steinem praised the effort on a call launching the platform last week. “To all those politicians who want the women’s vote next year, Make It Work has laid out your roadmap to victory…equal pay for equal work, affordable child care and elder care, and paid leave.”
Bryce Covert of ThinkProgress writes that the laws and benefits are a random patchwork among the 50 states.
“You need to set basic standards,” Hegewisch said. “The differences shouldn’t be too big between states.”
Congressional lawmakers have proposed national paid family, paid sick leave, and universal preschool, but none of them have come to pass.