In this brief, authors Robert Paul Hartley, Marybeth Mattingly, and Christopher Wimer present estimates of the number of families that cannot maintain a middle-class income as a result of child care expenses. Estimates are based on 2013–2017 data from the Current Population Survey’s Annual Social and Economic Supplement, which corresponds to income and expenses during 2012–2016. They report that approximately 9 percent of working families with children under age 6 are pushed out of the middle class as a result of child care expenses. For working families with very young children (under age 3), 8 percent are pushed below the middle-class threshold. If all middle-class working families with young children were to pay what typical upper-middle and middle-class families pay for child care, roughly $6,900 per year on average, an additional 21 percent would be pushed below the middle-class threshold. They report that the current funding infrastructure for helping parents find and pay for affordable, quality child care is woefully inadequate. One way to support working families would be to increase funding for the Child Care and Development Fund, which is currently targeted toward families below the middle class.

Publication Date

Summer 8-29-2018


National Issue Brief No. 136


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

Document Type



Copyright 2018. 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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