Child care has not been affordable for a long time now, especially not for poor and working class parents, but with the pandemic forcing the closure of schools and childcare facilities across the country, costs have shot up even more as parents scramble to figure out what to do with their children as they try to balance work and family. A new article in The Lily, provides an in-depth look into the lengths some parents are going to replace the childcare services that have evaporated over the last eight months.
For better-off parents, such as the Yaegers who are the example family in the article, costs per month were already nearing $2,000. But with schools closed, her two eldest children, previously in public school, were now part of a learning pod, a major cost increase necessitating them to dip into their savings, an more and more common measure for people across the country facing unemployment while dealing with housing, medical, and care costs.
The Yaegers, who resisted spending more for as long as possible, were at least lucky enough to have savings into which they could dip and two jobs they could do remotely. For many Americans, a savings account is little more than a dream, and the closure of schools and free or low-cost childcare centers has been devastating, especially for parents who cannot work remotely. This stings, especially as wealthier Americans have turned to private schools, personal tutors, and small care groups, which send costs skyrocketing.
Making matters worse, the child care industry, much like many other social services has experienced increased privatization while the federal government has done little to expand or even consider universal childcare for decades, as Claire Cain Miller pointed out last year. Caroline Kitchener, the author of The Lily piece, notes, the US remains a major outlier when it comes to child care costs. Childcare costs the typical family one-third of its income, $9,589 per year for a child under four. In bigger cities it can be almost triple that.
As we’ve pointed out, even before the pandemic, there has never been a better time to fight, forcefully, for universal child care in the U.S.