This Is the Most Expensive State in America for Child Care

preschool class

Preschool class | iStock.com

Who knew that having a bundle of joy could cost so much money? Most people know that raising a child is expensive. But that’s mostly in relation to hospital costs, keeping them fed, and sending them to college. It’s the cost of day care and other early education programs that shock many new parents. In many states, the cost of caring for a child before they’re old enough for school can be just as expensive as those college costs — if not more.

Parents might choose to have one partner stay home with the kids, giving up a paycheck but still perhaps saving on child care. But in other instances, both parents might want or need to work. And for single parents, there’s almost certainly a need to continue working. According to a recent report from Care.com, 66% of parents are surprised by how much child care costs them — even if they began budgeting for child care during pregnancy.

It’s not that parents are ignorant; the child care costs are simply astronomical. According to CNN Money, the cost of child care in 23 states is more expensive than the price tag of in-state colleges. Across the board, the majority of American families pay more than 10% of their household income for child care. In the most expensive states, those percentages are even higher. Here’s a look at the 11 states where families pay the most for child care, per a study by Child Care Aware. Did your state make the list?

11. Wisconsin

father walking little daughter with backpack

Father walking daughter with backpack | iStock.com/Nadezhda1906

  • Average cost for a 4-year-old: $9,598 per year
  • Income percentage of married-couple family: 10.9

Child care costs vary by state and by age. For this ranking, Child Care Aware broke out the average cost per state for 4-year-olds in child care centers, as well as the costs of caring for an infant. In most states, infant care is more expensive than caring for a toddler or preschooler because they require more constant care.

These states are ranked according to the costs of the most expensive care for a 4-year-old, according to the percentage of income it requires for a married couple. Wisconsin ranks at No. 11, with more than a tenth of all income going toward the cost of caring for one child. Infant care is higher at $11,250 per year, or 13.4% of income.

10. Montana

kids at a day care center

Day care center | Carsten Koall/Getty Images

  • Average cost for a 4-year-old: $8,299 per year
  • Income percentage of married-couple family: 11

As we’ll see throughout the report, high child care costs affect every region of the country. Montana has the No. 10 highest costs for child care, representing 11% of income for a married-couple family. However, the state ranks at No. 19 for infant care — the biggest discrepancy among states on this list. That care is $9,383, just $1,000 more per year and 12.5% of income.

9. Washington

two kids with a teacher in a kindergarten class

Child care worker | iStock.com

  • Average cost for a 4-year-old: $9,887 per year
  • Income percentage of married-couple family: 11

We continue westward to Washington, the state with the next-highest costs for child care in the country. Care for a 4-year-old in a daycare center is significantly higher here than in Montana, but the average income of $90,150 (compared to Montana’s $75,129) holds the share of income steady at 11%.

8. Minnesota

newborn baby girl looking with big beautiful hazel brown eyes

Infant care is expensive in Minnesota | iStock.com/Bodler

  • Average cost for a 4-year-old: $11,420 per year
  • Income percentage of married-couple family: 11.4

Although we do see expensive day care costs from east to west in the United States, we don’t see any of the top 11 in the South. Another northern state on our list is Minnesota, in which married couples will pay an average of 11.4% of their income for a 4-year-old in daycare. Infant care costs $14,826, the third-largest amount among the states on our list, and accounts for 14.8% of a couple’s income.

7. Washington, D.C.

baby sleeping in mother or father's arms during a flight

Child sleeping | iStock.com

  • Average cost for a 4-year-old: $17,863 per year
  • Income percentage of married-couple family: 11.4

Child care in our nation’s capital costs an astronomical amount per year. However, an average income of $156,4438 for couples keeps the cost at a moderate 11.4% — though that’s high enough to be ranked as the No. 7 most expensive state for child care. The real costs come for single parents in this region, however. With a modest average income of just $25,194 for single earners, the cost of child care for a preschooler swallows a whopping 70.9% of their income.

Infant care is even worse, totaling $22,658 per year. That represents a 14.5% share for married couples, and a budget-breaking 89.9% for single parents.

6. Oregon

father fastening seatbelt of a baby in car

Child in a car seat | iStock.com

  • Average cost for a 4-year-old: $9,108 per year
  • Income percentage of married-couple family: 11.7

We’re back to the Pacific Northwest for the next-highest cost of child care. We’re back to a much better price compared to Washington, D.C., but a smaller average salary means it takes a bigger share of income. Oregon has the fourth-highest price for infant care, representing 15.3% of income for married couples.

5. Vermont

child's playroom

Child’s playroom | iStock.com

  • Average cost for a 4-year-old: $10,440 per year
  • Income percentage of married-couple family: 11.9

Vermont comes in at No. 5 in terms of the most expensive child care for preschoolers. Single parents pay 42.9% of their income for this care, which is the third-highest percentage among the top 11 states.

4. Colorado

diaper bag stuffed with supplies to take care of a baby

Diaper bag full of baby supplies | iStock.com

  • Average cost for a 4-year-old: $11,089 per year
  • Income percentage of married-couple family: 12.1

Child care costs in Colorado are a boatload no matter your circumstances, but they’re particularly rough for infant care. A married couple will pay an average of $14,950 for their youngest children, which represents 16.3% of their joint household income. At that rate, it’s the most expensive infant care in the nation.

3. Nevada

art supplies

Kids’ craft supplies | iStock.com

  • Average cost for a 4-year-old: $8,768 per year
  • Income percentage of married-couple family: 12.3

Child care in Nevada is actually relatively low compared to some other states on this list, but a lower joint income of $71,860 means it still requires 12.3% of a couple’s income to put their preschooler in a day care center. That’s high enough to rank as the No. 3 most expensive cost in the nation.

2. New York

douple with a baby in their bedroom

Parents getting ready for work with a baby | iStock.com

  • Average cost for a 4-year-old: $11,700 per year
  • Income percentage of married-couple family: 12.3

New York is known for its high education standards, which could be part of explaining why child care centers also charge a premium in the state. As a single parent, it takes about 45% of their income to afford child care, the second-highest rate among our top 11 states.

1. Hawaii

mother working with baby

Mother working with baby | iStock.com

  • Average cost for a 4-year-old: $11,232 per year
  • Income percentage of married-couple family: 13

Everything tends to cost more in Hawaii, including the cost of child care. Parents in this state pay the largest percentage of their income to day care centers of one kind or another, representing 13% of their paychecks. Infant care is the second-highest in the nation, requiring 15.7% of parents’ income for a price tag of $13,584 per year.

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