In this brief, authors Marybeth Mattingly, Andrew Schaefer, and Jessica Carson analyze families’ child care expenses and identify, among families with young children who pay for child care, the share that are “cost burdened,” defined in this context as spending more than 10 percent of their gross income on child care. Using data from the 2012–2016 Current Population Survey, they present their findings by number of children; age of youngest child; parental characteristics; family income measures; and U.S. region, metropolitan status, and state. They report that about one in four families with young children who have child care costs are “burdened” by the cost, spending more than 10 percent of family income on child care. Across families with young children, an average of 8.8 percent of family income is spent on child care. More than half of poor families with young children are cost burdened by child care, compared to 39.3 percent of low income families (those with incomes between one and two times the poverty threshold) and just 13.4 percent of families at or above five times the poverty threshold. One in five married couples, and two in five single parents with young children and child care expenses, pay more than 10 percent of their income on these costs. Access to quality, affordable child care is critical for American working families.

Publication Date

Fall 11-10-2016


National Issue Brief No. 109


Durham, N.H. : Carsey School of Public Policy, University of New Hampshire

Document Type



Copyright 2016. Carsey School of Public Policy. These materials may be used for the purposes of research, teaching, and private study. For all other uses, contact the copyright holder.



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