High Child Care Costs = She-cession From the Workforce

The high cost of child care limits the options available to working parents and working mothers in particular. COVID-19 has exacerbated the problem.

All across the nation—regardless of region and across a diversity of family types, racial and ethnic groups, and ages of children—mothers are driving forces of the American economy. The unreasonably high cost of childcare unfortunately pushes many women out of the workforce, particularly low-wage women whose earnings would barely offset the cost for daycare or a babysitter. If you’re like many of us, we haven’t had direct contact with childcare costs recently, take a look at these monthly costs:

infant $1,230; toddler $910; preschooler $760; family $800

Source: Data analysis from the Center for American Progress based on data from “Where Does Your Childcare Dollar Go” available at costofchildcare.org


  • Check out AAUW’s resources and know your rights https://www.aauw.org/issues/equity/motherhood/
  • Share this information with parents in your social circle
  • Become a 2-minute activist with AAUW at https://www.aauw.org/act/two-minute-activist/
  • Stay informed about the status of efforts to pass an IL Healthy Workplace Act (paid sick leave) and an IL Family and Medical Insurance Leave bill (including childcare issues). The I-ACT team will send out information on these bills as more becomes available.

A low-income family earning less than $50,000 per year spends 1/3 of their income on child care alone. In comparison, the highest-income families spend more than 7% of their annual household income on childcare (7% is the federal definition of affordability).

  • Mothers are 40% more likely than fathers to report that child care issues harmed their careers
  • 1/2 of U.S. families report difficulty finding child care, according to a survey by the Center for American Progress
  • Women reported making job decisions based on child care considerations rather than in the interest of their financial situation or career goals
  • As of December 2020, 2.2 million women have left the workforce since the pandemic began according to the National Women’s Law Center
  • At least 1 in 4 women are considering downsizing their careers or leaving the workforce due to challenges created by the pandemic, a study by McKinsey and LeanIn.org found
  • Women ages 25 to 44 are almost three times as likely as men of the same age group to not be working due to child care demands, according to new research from the U.S. Census Bureau and Federal Reserve
  • It is projected that this she-cession of women in the workplace will set back all labor equity progress by at least a generation.

Parents across the income spectrum report difficulty affording child care for their children, proving that this is not only a problem for low-income families. Black mothers are significantly more likely to report cost as a barrier to accessing child care compared with white mothers.This is not surprising, given the fact that the cost of child care has more than doubled over the past 20 years, while wages for workers have been largely stagnant over the same time period.