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Cost of Care is Influencing Your Employees' Careers

Patrick Ball on July 29, 2015 10:10 AM

Maternity leave, paternity leave and work-life challenges modern families face have been in the news a lot lately.

Now, a new study by offers a detailed look at how child care, particularly the cost of care, is affecting today’s working parents. From the hours they work to what they look for in an employer, the demands of being a working parent can have a deep impact on their careers.

In fact, almost 70 percent of parents say the cost of child care has influenced their career decisions, according to’s second Cost of Care survey. Unfortunately, most working parents say they’re not getting the support they need from their employers. 

The report, released this week, reveals trends similar to those highlighted recently by Pew Research and a survey of Harvard Business School alumni, which indicate millennial women are struggling to balance families and their careers even more than generations before them.   

Check out’s second Cost of Care infographic for a by-the-numbers look at how the cost of child care – the largest household expense and climbing – is affecting working families, and what their employers can do to support them.  

How Much Does Child Care Cost? 

At $18,000 for two children in day care, the cost of child care is the largest household expense for American families -- even more than housing, transportation and higher ed. 

Breaking down the cost a little further, the national average weekly cost of a nanny is $477 for one kid, $488 for two, an au pair is $360, a day care is $188 ($341 for two kids) and family-run day care is $140 ($267 for two kiddos). With that said, 28 percent of parents spend more than $20,000 on child care annually, and 13 percent spend over $30,000. 

From a straight cash perspective, child care is most expensive in the Northeast, where parents pay $22,513 annually for two kids in day care, and cheapest in the South, where two kids in day care costs an average of $15,409. 

The five most expensive states for a day care center are: New York, Vermont, Oregon, Nevada and Minnesota. The five least expensive states are Louisiana, Tennessee, South Dakota, Mississippi and South Carolina. 

For nannies, it's a little different. The five most expensive states -- expensive meaning nanny cost relative to average state median income -- for a nanny are New Mexico, Arkansas, Idaho, Mississippi and Arizona. The least expensive states are District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New Hampshire and Connecticut. 

How Does Cost of Care Affect Working Families? 

The majority of parents (69 percent) say the cost of care has influenced their career decisions. The most common ways child care costs are affecting careers are: 

At a time when 60 percent of American families have two working parents, employees are putting more of an emphasis on family care benefits and work-life integration when it comes to expectations of their employers. A massive 89 percent of working parents want family care benefits, yet 81 percent say their employers don't offer any and 60 percent say their companies don't appear to care about their child care needs

Meanwhile, the cost of care is impacting working families at home as well. Fifteen percent say they cost of care has influenced when they have a child, 33 percent are slashing budgets in other places and 26 percent are assuming debt to afford quality care. 

What Employers Can Do to Help 

For modern companies, caring about employees' family care responsibilities is smart business. Not only is offering programs like paid parental leave and family care benefits a competitive advantage in terms of attracting and retaining top talent, but care-related stress, absenteeism and lack of focus cost American businesses tens of billions annually in lost productivity costs. Here are a few ways companies can support working moms and dads: 

  • Offer family care benefits, such as Workplace Solutions
  • Support work-life integration through flexible work arrangements and modernized performance reviews that value results over time on task 
  • Prioritize benefits communication with working parents, especially around employee benefits programs to ensure they're aware child care assistance options, tax credits and FSAs. 
  • About those FSAs... 64 percent of survey respondents say their employer offers them, yet 36 percent don't set aside money in an FSA and 36 percent don't realize FSAs can be used to help decrease child care costs .

Take a look at's Cost of Care 2015 infographic for a by-the-numbers look at how the cost of child care – the largest household expense and climbing – is affecting working families.



For more on how you can improve employee benefits communication efforts, download our free guide on How to Think Like a Marketer to drive benefits utilization and better support working families.


Employee Benefits Communication