How Much Did Households in the United States Pay for Child Care in 2012? An Examination of Differences by Household Income

Publication Date:

January 22, 2019

Key Findings

  • Using some form of nonparental care for children under age 6 was most common in higher-income families.
  • In households with incomes of less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL), the most common regular, nonparental care type for infants and toddlers was unpaid individual care. In higher-income households, it was center-based care.
  • Three-to-five-year-olds in regular nonparental care were most likely to be using only center-based care, compared to all other care types; however, using only center-based care for 3-to-5-year-olds was more common in higher-income households than in lower-income households.
  • In 2012, households with children under age 6 that paid for at least one regular nonparental care arrangement for any of their children (through age 13) spent, on average, 20 percent of their household income on care. In comparison, households with only older children (only children 6-to-13 years old) spent, on average, 10 percent of their household income on care.
  • Among households with children under age 13 that paid for at least one regular nonparental care arrangement, poor households (income of less than 100 percent of the FPL) spent 33 percent of their income on care, whereas higher-income (at or above 300 percent of the FPL) households spent 11 percent of their income on care.
  • Among households with children under age 13 that paid for at least one regular nonparental care arrangement, the actual dollar amount spent on care increased with household income: Poor households spent the least (average of $97.30/week) and higher-income households spent the most (average of $143.70/week).