Chart of the Day: Rent Costs vs. Childcare Costs, by Metro

We talk a lot about housing costs. For many people who have children, the cost of childcare can be equivalent to another full rent/mortgage payment each month. Hotpads used data from’s Care Index and the Census Bureau, and found that the average monthly cost of child care in the U.S. – including at-home and in-center care – is $1,385 a month. Nationally, the median rent payment is $1,500 a month.

The below chart shows median rents and child care costs in the top 50 U.S. metros. In Minneapolis-St. Paul, weighted monthly child care costs are $1,495/month, while median rent is $1,695. Both the cost of child care and the median rent out-pace the national norm.

Median Rent & Cost of Child Care in 50 Metros

(Original chart, with dataset)

About Julie Kosbab

Julie Kosbab is an online marketing consultant and active transportation advocate living in Anoka County, Minnesota. She was one of Minnesota's only League of American Bicyclists Certified Instructors when certified in 2005, and is no longer lonely in that calling. A past member of the National Bicycle Tour Directors Association, she has 2 children and a garage full of bicycles. Find her on Twitter as @betweenstations, or read her (seldom updated) blog at Ride Boldly!

15 thoughts on “Chart of the Day: Rent Costs vs. Childcare Costs, by Metro

      1. Cobo R

        I don’t mean to be insensitive, but when I was in college I didn’t understand my fellow students who didn’t consider what they would make after graduation vs what their schooling costed…

        I know its partly the foolish optimism of youth. But we need to educate these kids what the real world expected earnings are. I remember when I was in college It nearly broke my heart when a friend told me how much she was borrowing to get an English degree… She was in 6x debt vs starting salary territory, And I don’t think English was even something she was really that passionate about… I was in 0.4x debt territory with an engineering degree and feeling nervous about it.

        Also isn’t the current trend of building luxury student housing at public schools making the problem worse? Dear god, when your 18 you should be able to share 200 sqft dorm room with another person and be grateful you’re not at your parents house… I know I was… A coworker told me what the rent was for his sons apartment was and it is greater than my mortgage!..

        1. Serafina ScheelSerafina Scheel

          A double dorm room and meal plan at the U is about $9900 for 8 months. It’s comparable to a double occupancy bedroom in one of the luxury buildings (e.g. $7920 for 12 months at The Marshall where you can pay monthly).

          Childcare is the worst of both worlds right now. Breathtakingly expensive for families and poverty wages for workers. Longer service hours and lower ratios than primary schools, highly regulated (centers at least), poorly subsidized.

        2. Monte Castleman

          It’s not just dorm rooms; people are accustomed to more space and privacy in society in general than when shared dorm rooms were built in the 1950s and 1960s. By my time having to put up with sharing a bedroom with a sibling was, in my experience, extremely uncommon. The whole showering together after gym was about at it’s end. I posted before about hospitals of that era are also obsolete in part because of the shared room arrangement. This is also the reason I don’t think people are going to give up the space and privacy of private cars even if TaaS rides are available cheaper.

          Some of the newer dorm rooms I’ve seen do maintain shared bedrooms, but they have a lounge area / kitchenette / bathroom that’s shared with a couple of bedrooms. The dorms my sister lived in at Northwestern Roseville, built in the 1980s, were at the beginning of this trend. So there’s a chance to get some separation from your roommates someplace other than a restroom stall all the way down the hall. If colleges don’t provide what modern students demand, the students are going to choose private housing rather than put up with a square room with two beds and two desks.

          College costs have more to do with charging what the market will bear due more demand than supply caused by unlimited student loans and the lack of other career paths to a decent paying job. Now that working at an auto plant, factory, steel mill, or mine is not an option you go to college to learn computer programming or else flip burgers or bag groceries for the rest of your life.

        3. Julie Kosbab Post author

          Separate out this concept and consider the cost of childcare for a bit.

          We have many professions where the roles are Highly Useful to society whose rate of pay is not compatible with childcare costs, even if those individuals have zero student debt. I’m talking elementary ed, social workers, etc. Even at $30/hour, covering a place to live and childcare is rough, and there are many roles that carry that kind of wage.

          The role of student debt and how education is funded is a huge issue, though, as well.

    1. Anon

      How can we structure universal daycare so that it does not suffer from the same inequalities of our current universal education system? Perhaps sub-optimal universal daycare would be better than no-universal daycare? I’d buy that argument. A while back Trumpty proposed tax-deductibility for daycare expenses, but I think that a tax break would just cause a universal price hike and would only help wealthy people who can take advantage of deductions.

      For a brief time, scheduling circumstances required me to put my child at a top-shelf daycare in Minneapolis, (~$160/day). Some of the workers there were also parents but could not afford to put their child in the daycare where they worked, so they’d have to drop their children off at another, cheaper and lower quality daycare while they spent the day providing higher quality care for wealthier children. Ironically, both daycares were owned by the same parent company. That was several years ago but it still wrenches my heart to think about.

      Now I pay 33k/year for 2 kids at a different place. I use a Dependent Care FSA that lets me pay 5k of that cost in pre-tax money; so probably a $1k or 3% direct federal government subsidy. Still, 33k is a great deal, considering that my kids get good care and I don’t worry about them. But that does not make it affordable and even the high costs are not sufficient to pay the amazing workers the salaries that they deserve. Raising kids is hard work, and it makes sense that it costs a lot to pay someone else to take good care of my kids for 10ish hours a day. I have no constructive ideas about how to fix the system.

      On another matter, I’ve decided that childcare accreditations like NAEYC are meaningless and just siphon money out of the system without providing value.

  1. James

    At the risk of sound insensitive that’s around $7 an hour to care for a child.

    Do people really think that’s an unreasonable price?

    1. Julie Kosbab Post author

      I think it less about “unreasonable,” and more about where the wages of those looking for childcare sit. It’s not uncommon for a parent to leave the workforce because “my whole check would go to childcare.” Depending on the individual, arguments about gaining experience, benefits, retirement contribution and etc. may not be meaningful.

      For many, they’re looking at poverty working, or poverty not working.

    2. Dana DeMasterDanaD

      The pay for workers and the total cost for families are both a problem. Child care workers do important work and difficult work. They should be paid more. As a parent using child care, I want the people caring for my children to be paid well so there is less turnover and better morale.

      The last year we paid full-time child care it was $12,000 for one child – more than tuition at some MnSCU colleges! Our total child care costs that year were about $18,000 including part-time and summer care for our older child. I don’t know how someone making less than $20/hour does it.

      The solution can’t be born solely by families. Costs are already way too much and workers don’t make nearly enough.

    3. Adam MillerAdam Miller

      I think it’s a huge expense that’s poorly distributed by our current system and that there are obvious societal benefits to easing access to childcare, or even having society provide it outright.

    4. Jeff

      Are you referring to the $1,385/mo figure? My assumption is that’s a per-child figure, so it doesn’t necessarily reflect what the caregiver is being paid. At our peak childcare expenses, we were paying over $30k per year (we have three kids), which was full-time nanny plus pre-school costs. Divide that by three and it sounds like we were getting a deal (which I suppose we were if we were to compare the cost of one nanny taking care of three kids versus putting all three kids in a daycare place), but by no means were we paying her $7/hr.

  2. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

    I wonder how the “weighted childcare” figure accounts for families who choose to have one parent stay home to solve the childcare problem.

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