These States Have the Most Expensive Child Care

Starting a family costs more than ever, especially if you live in these places in the U.S.
A newborn baby grabs her mother's finger.

The punishingly high cost of child care isn't exactly breaking news, but a recent study reveals the burden to be heavier than ever for parents., a global marketplace connecting parents with child care providers, released the Care Index, an interactive tool that looks at the cost of child care across the U.S.—and the results aren’t good for parents and would-be parents. The Care Index (which culled data from, plus publicly available information from government agencies and professional caregiver associates) found the national average for at-home care (think nannies and babysitters) costs $28,354 a year, while in-center care costs $9,589—about $100 more expensive than the average cost of in-state college tuition in 2018.

On average, the expense of child care accounts for 31% of a household's income. The study assumes families are paying for the care of one child for 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year. Given that the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics pegs the average amount of time full-time workers spend on the job each workday at 8.56 hours, the Care Index may actually underestimate the amount of time a child needs to be cared for during a parent’s workday.

These are the states the study found to be the most expensive for child care:

StateIn-Home CostIn-Center CostPercentage of State's Median Household Income
West Virginia$26,932$6,78745%
New Mexico$27,147$8,86537%
New York$29,501$10,51936%
North Carolina$27,251$8,64334%

The Care Index also looked at the availability and quality of child care in each state, assigning it a rating of one to four using data for these ratings from reviews posted on, as well as looking at the percentage of care centers accredited by the National Association of Family Child Care (NAFCC) and the National Association for The Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Only 11% of child care centers across the nation hold accreditation from either organization, which can make it difficult for parents to quickly and easily determine the quality of a child care center.

James Ellis

James Ellis is a former Staff Writer for ValuePenguin, covering credit, banking, travel and other personal finance topics. He previously wrote for Newsweek, Men's Health, and other nationally-published magazines.

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