Blog Featured Image

Care@Work / Care@Work Blog / The Cost of Care: Highlights from 2017 Survey Results

The Cost of Care: Highlights from 2017 Survey Results

Heidi Erdmann-Sullivan on September 21, 2017 10:30 AM

Did you know nearly one in three families spend 20 percent of their income on child care? And approximately the same number of families would put themselves in debt – or further in debt – to pay for it?

Even though working parents are budgeting for child care expenses more than they ever did before, the high cost of care is still challenging families everywhere – both financially and emotionally. 

Here are key highlights from both the 2017 Cost of Care Survey and 2017 Babysitter Survey.  Together, these results help paint a clearer picture of what care is really costing families nationwide – and areas where employers can provide greater support to working parents.

The Cost of Child Care in 2017:

  • Thirty-two percent of families spend 20 percent or more of their household income on care; 48 percent spend more than 10 percent of their income on child care
  • National Average Weekly Rates*:
    • Nanny: $565
    • Child Care Center: $211
    • Family Child Care Program: $200
    • Au Pair: $367
    • After School Sitter: $232
  • National Average Hourly Rate for Babysitters: $13.97 (up 26 percent from $11.11 in 2010)

*all rates are for one infant child, expect for After School Sitter, which is not age limited

How Families Are Meeting Child Care Costs:

  • Seventy-two percent of families now budget for child care, an increase from 58 percent in 2014
  • Thirty percent of parents who set up a monthly “family budget” for overall expenses (e.g., education, clothing and extracurricular activities are rarely or never able to stay within their family budget. If fact, 69 percent go over by $100 or more each month.

The Emotional and Financial Toll of Child Care Costs:

  • Thirty-two percent of parents would put themselves in debt - or further in debt - to pay for child care, up 7 percent from 2016
  • Forty percent say child care costs cause tension in their relationship with their partner
  • Twenty percent of families say they had fewer children than they would have liked because of the cost of child care, and 17 percent waited longer than they wanted to have children
  • When asked what the top two reasons are for NOT hiring a babysitter, 64 percent of families report it’s too stressful and 59 percent report it costs too much
  • Of parents who think hiring a sitter is cost prohibitive, 82 percent say a sitter’s rate would need to be at least $3 less per hour to become financially feasible
  • Single parents are more likely to spend at least $1,000 more on babysitter costs than their married counterparts (58 percent to 38 percent respectively)
  • The burden of finding sitters still falls largely on moms – 56 percent report handling the hiring on their own, compared to 20 percent of dads

How Child Care Influences Career Decisions:

  • Sixty-three percent of parents state that child care costs influenced their career; with 33 percent changing jobs to increase take-home pay, 27 percent asking for a more flexible schedule, and 23 percent downshifting to a part-time schedule or becoming a stay-at-home parent to save money on child care
  • Twenty-six percent of parents who decided to downshift to part-time work or leave the workplace entirely walked away from annual incomes of $50,000 or more
  • In hindsight, 21 percent say they wouldn’t have made the same career decisions

What Employers Can Do to Help:

  • While 44 percent of working parents say their employer seems to care about their child care needs, an overwhelming majority – 85 percent wish their employer offered child care benefits, such as discounted child care and access to backup child care
  • Child-care specific benefits and supportive policies would be meaningful for both parents and employers, as 73 percent say their job has been affected because their child care plans fell through last minute. They’ve used a sick day (64 percent), or simply been late to work (54 percent) to manage the change.

As employers look to reduce the costs of absenteeism and presenteeism, and boost organizational productivity, supportive child care benefits and policies will play an increasingly critical role.  Flexible work arrangements, more generous PTO and paid leave policies, as well as subsidization of child care costs are all ways employers can better support working parents. And if your organization offers Dependent Care FSAs to help offset child care costs, and EAPs to provide financial and emotional counseling in facing these challenges, be sure to make it known to employees frequently and through multiple channels. 

Learn More About the 2017 Cost of Care and 2017 Babysitter Survey Results:
The 2017 The Cost of Care Survey is an annual survey to measure the relative cost of care in the U.S. and how care impacts families’ budgets and employment.  The 2017 Cost of Care Survey captured responses from more than 1,100 parents in the U.S. during the month of May 2017.  Respondents were recruited from 

The 2017 Babysitter Survey results captured responses from more than 800 parents in the U.S. during the month of February 2017.  Respondents were recruited from membership.  The member data, which includes pay rate data for sitters, is from babysitter jobs posted from all 50 states during 2016.  

HR Leaders Also Read:

New Call-to-action

Heidi Erdmann-Sullivan

As Director, Sales and Marketing at, Heidi is responsible for developing innovative, results-driven programs for Care@Work – a consumer-centered portfolio of family care for employers and their diverse workforce. Passionate about helping HR professionals improve the lives of their employees, Heidi follows and writes about the top trends and research impacting both employees and employers in the workplace, including the future of work, consumerism and HR, building employer brands, pay equity and paid leave policy, and company culture. Prior to joining, Heidi led marketing teams at a variety of technology companies including Constant Contact. She lives north of Boston with her husband Brian and their “daughter” Lexi – a 10 lb. Shih-Tzu therapy dog.