States Where Child Care Is Most and Least Affordable

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When the pandemic hit, workplaces went dark and home offices became the new American job site. Even when employers were allowed to bring their workers back, many chose to keep them working remotely. Part of the reason, of course, was out of concerns with the virus — but a secondary consideration kept offices shuttered, too. With schools closed, parents had to either stay home and work while they cared for their children, or they had to pay for child care.

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A new study from GOBankingRates sheds some light on why that second option wasn’t really an option at all for millions of Americans.

Using data from the Economic Policy Institute, the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), GOBankingRates identified the cost of child care in each state. It also identifies the 10 states where child care is least affordable and most affordable in the context of each state’s median salary.

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Readers should keep in mind that HHS defines “affordable” as 7% of a person’s income. Using that criteria, not a single one of America’s 50 states offers its residents affordable child care.

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The cost of child care was painfully prohibitive long before the word “coronavirus” entered the American lexicon, but the pandemic made a bad situation impossible. According to Fortune, the cost of child care rose by 41% from the time the virus emerged through the start of 2022. It can now easily cost families 20% of their salaries, and families with children under the age of 5 have been hit hardest by the increases.

In a sad twist of irony, those who work in child care tend to be so poorly paid that they’re among those who are least likely to be able to afford it for their own children. Although prices are exorbitant all across America, some states are a whole lot worse than others. Here’s a look at what it costs for parents to find a safe place for their kids to learn and grow across the United States.

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Related: How the Costs of Child Care Have Increased Over the Course of the Pandemic

States Where Child Care Is Most Affordable

Although these states aren’t technically considered affordable for child care, according to HHS, they are the most affordable options:

Rank State State Median Salary Cost of Affordable Child Care Average Cost of Actual Infant Child Care Salary Percent of Actual Child Care
1 South Dakota $59,533 $4,167 $6,511 10.94%
2 Alabama $51,734 $3,621 $6,001 11.60%
3 Mississippi $45,792 $3,205 $5,436 11.87%
4 Idaho $60,999 $4,270 $7,474 12.25%
5 Kentucky $52,295 $3,661 $6,411 12.26%
6 South Carolina $56,227 $3,936 $7,007 12.46%
7 Utah $75,780 $5,305 $9,945 13.12%
8 Georgia $61,980 $4,339 $8,530 13.76%
9 Arkansas $48,952 $3,427 $6,890 14.08%
10 North Dakota $64,577 $4,520 $9,091 14.08%

States Where Child Care Is Least Affordable

Ranked from the absolute least affordable to slightly more affordable, child care costs are hitting hard in these states:

Rank State State Median Salary Cost of Affordable Child Care Average Cost of Actual Infant Child Care Salary Percent of Actual Child Care
1 Massachusetts $85,843 $6,009 $20,913 24.36%
2 Indiana $57,603 $4,032 $12,612 21.89%
3 Minnesota $74,593 $5,222 $16,087 21.57%
4 New York $72,108 $5,048 $15,394 21.35%
5 California $80,440 $5,631 $16,945 21.07%
6 Vermont $63,001 $4,410 $12,812 20.34%
7 Oregon $67,058 $4,694 $13,616 20.30%
8 Illinois $69,187 $4,843 $13,802 19.95%
9 Nebraska $63,229 $4,426 $12,571 19.88%
10 Colorado $77,127 $5,399 $15,325 19.87%

Child Care in All States

Check out the full ranking of child care costs in all states:

Rank State State Median Salary Cost of Affordable Child
Care
Average Cost of Actual Infant Child Care Salary Percent of Actual Child Care
1 South Dakota $59,533 $4,167 $6,511 10.94%
2 Alabama $51,734 $3,621 $6,001 11.60%
3 Mississippi $45,792 $3,205 $5,436 11.87%
4 Idaho $60,999 $4,270 $7,474 12.25%
5 Kentucky $52,295 $3,661 $6,411 12.26%
6 South Carolina $56,227 $3,936 $7,007 12.46%
7 Utah $75,780 $5,305 $9,945 13.12%
8 Georgia $61,980 $4,339 $8,530 13.76%
9 Arkansas $48,952 $3,427 $6,890 14.08%
10 North Dakota $64,577 $4,520 $9,091 14.08%
11 Texas $64,034 $4,482 $9,324 14.56%
12 Louisiana $51,073 $3,575 $7,724 15.12%
13 New Jersey $85,751 $6,003 $12,988 15.15%
14 Tennessee $56,071 $3,925 $8,732 15.57%
15 Florida $59,227 $4,146 $9,238 15.60%
16 Delaware $70,176 $4,912 $11,021 15.70%
17 Oklahoma $54,449 $3,811 $8,575 15.75%
18 Maine $58,924 $4,125 $9,449 16.04%
19 Alaska $75,463 $5,282 $12,120 16.06%
20 Wyoming $65,003 $4,550 $10,647 16.38%
21 New Hampshire $77,933 $5,455 $12,791 16.41%
22 Hawaii $83,102 $5,817 $13,731 16.52%
23 North Carolina $57,341 $4,014 $9,480 16.53%
24 Ohio $58,642 $4,105 $9,697 16.54%
25 New Mexico $51,945 $3,636 $8,617 16.59%
26 Montana $57,153 $4,001 $9,518 16.65%
27 Iowa $61,691 $4,318 $10,378 16.82%
28 Missouri $57,409 $4,019 $10,041 17.49%
29 Arizona $62,055 $4,344 $10,948 17.64%
30 Maryland $86,738 $6,072 $15,335 17.68%
31 West Virginia $48,850 $3,420 $8,736 17.88%
32 Nevada $63,276 $4,429 $11,408 18.03%
33 Kansas $62,087 $4,346 $11,222 18.07%
34 Michigan $59,584 $4,171 $10,861 18.23%
35 Virginia $76,456 $5,352 $14,063 18.39%
36 Washington $78,687 $5,508 $14,554 18.50%
37 Pennsylvania $63,463 $4,442 $11,842 18.66%
38 Rhode Island $71,169 $4,982 $13,696 19.24%
39 Wisconsin $64,168 $4,492 $12,567 19.58%
40 Connecticut $78,833 $5,518 $15,501 19.66%
41 Colorado $77,127 $5,399 $15,325 19.87%
42 Nebraska $63,229 $4,426 $12,571 19.88%
43 Illinois $69,187 $4,843 $13,802 19.95%
44 Oregon $67,058 $4,694 $13,616 20.30%
45 Vermont $63,001 $4,410 $12,812 20.34%
46 California $80,440 $5,631 $16,945 21.07%
47 New York $72,108 $5,048 $15,394 21.35%
48 Minnesota $74,593 $5,222 $16,087 21.57%
49 Indiana $57,603 $4,032 $12,612 21.89%
50 Massachusetts $85,843 $6,009 $20,913 24.36%
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More From GOBankingRates

Methodology: For this piece, childcare affordability in each state was determined by: (1)state median salary, sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey; (2)the cost of infant child care as 7% of  median salary by state, the definition of “affordable” childcare per the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; (3)the actual cost of infant childcare by state, sourced from The Economic Policy Institute; and (4)the percentage of salary average actual infant child care costs make up. These factors were ranked according to actual childcare costs as the smallest percentage of median salary. All data was collected on and up to date as of February 23, 2022.

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About the Author

Andrew Lisa has been writing professionally since 2001. An award-winning writer, Andrew was formerly one of the youngest nationally distributed columnists for the largest newspaper syndicate in the country, the Gannett News Service. He worked as the business section editor for amNewYork, the most widely distributed newspaper in Manhattan, and worked as a copy editor for TheStreet.com, a financial publication in the heart of Wall Street's investment community in New York City.
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