Survey: DC is the most expensive place in the country for childcare

The pandemic has driven up costs for a lot of things including childcare. And it’s a big problem in the District.

According to the recent survey in the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT Data Book, on average, day care in the District costs parents $24,396 a year.

That’s far and above Maryland and Virginia where the average cost is $11,090 and $11,579 respectively.

“When you think about childcare, it’s such an important resource in the lives of families with young children,” said Ruqiyyah Anbar-Shaheen, director of early childhood at the advocacy group DC Action, which contributed to the survey. “Very few families living in DC can afford to have one parent stay home and care for the child.”

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human services, childcare is considered affordable when it doesn’t exceed 7% of a family’s income.

The study found that, on average, married couples are spending 11% of their income on day care. For single mothers it’s a whopping 73% of income.

Anbar-Shaheen said the D.C. government has taken important “first” steps to tackle the issue, including expanding eligibility for assistance. Families of four who earn less than $90,000 in income can get discounted childcare vouchers.

But she says that will only cover about 2,100 families.

“The District needs to be thinking much more ambitiously about how we expand childcare so that no family is paying more than they can afford or having to make a tough choice about where they put their child,” she said.

The group is also pushing the District to fully fund and implement the Birth to Three Act passed in 2018.

The law first expands subsidized child care for infants and toddlers in lower income families, most of whom are Black or Brown and then, beginning in 2027, if there is available resources or funding, it would expand support to families in all income levels.

The Data Book report also found that the cost of home care for a toddler or infant in D.C. is over $19,000 dollars a year, also the costliest in the country.

A recent survey of 3,000 parents by found that the average weekly rate in D.C. for a nanny is $885 dollars.

Shayna Estulin

Shayna Estulin joined WTOP in 2021 as an anchor/reporter covering breaking news in the D.C. region. She has loved radio since she was a child and is thrilled to now be part of Washington’s top radio news station.

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