Mississippi has the lowest average cost for center-based infant care as the average cost of child care was 7.3 percent of the household income, while California has the highest average cost for center-based infant care as the cost of child care was 18.6 percent of the household income. Oklahoma ranks 14 out of 51 states for cost of child care.
The average cost for center-based infant care as a percentage of married couple’s median income.
In Oklahoma, infant child care cost took up 11.0% of a married couple’s income. Estimated monthly cost of infant care per child in Oklahoma: $1,318, toddler care: $884, preschool: $739, home-based childcare: $930.
Child Care Aware of America “”found that the national annual average price of child care for 2022 was $10,853. It would take 10% of a married couple with children’s median income to afford this national average price. It would take 33% of a single parent with children’s median household income to afford this national average price. These are well above the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommendation that the price of child care be no more than 7% of household income.”
Many Oklahomans are leaving the workforce due to lack of affordable childcare. Parents struggle everyday because they cannot find reliable childcare during work hours. A 2022 U.S. Chamber of Commerce report shows that thousands of childcare facilities closed down during the COVID-19 pandemic. There were 920,000 childcare workers across the nation before the pandemic hit. The childcare workforce fell more than 30% during the pandemic and was still 7% lower as of 2022, according to the report.
States like Oklahoma that were already suffering from childcare deserts, have been hit the hardest. 55% of the state of Oklahoma is labeled as a childcare desert. “The Sooner State had more than 4,000 facilities in 2012; that number shrank to 2,954 by 2021.” According to a recent US Chamber of Commerce Foundation study, lack of access to childcare can cause states to lose an average of $1 billion in economic activity annually. Part of the lost revenue is the cost of parents missing work because quality childcare was not available or unaffordable.
The shortage of childcare facilities and workers has had a ripple effect across the workforce. There has been a 6.1% decline in workforce labor participation among Oklahoma mothers who have children ranging in age from infant to four years old.
Despite cultural shifts over the past several decades where we see more families splitting household responsibilities, many women are still the primary caregivers for children. With affordable childcare becoming less available in Oklahoma, some families find that it makes more financial sense for one parent to leave their job and stay at home to care for children. When families make that decision, it is much more likely that the stay at home parent will be a woman. A recent Center for American Progress report finds that during the COVID-19 pandemic, Millennial mothers were nearly three times more likely than Millennial fathers to report being unable to work due to a school or child care closure. Of course, with the rising number of single-parent homes, there is no stay-at-home option for many. More than 60% of mothers are now the sole or co-breadwinners of their household.
Dropping out of the workforce to care for children is more harmful to a woman’s career, often in the form of lower wages and missed promotions. Even when the caregiving responsibility is temporary and women can return to work later, the temporary absence from the workforce still means that their lifetime earnings will be less than they would have otherwise been.
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