College is really expensive. But you probably knew that already since, statistically speaking, it's likely that you have student loan debt if you're a recent graduate. (Seven in 10 new grads do.) But here's something you might not know: in a majority of states, putting an infant in childcare costs just as much as—if not more than—the average cost of in-state tuition at a public four-year college.
A report released Tuesday by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found that infant care was more expensive than the average cost of in-state college tuition at public, four-year institutions in 33 states and Washington, D.C.
In Wyoming, putting a baby in daycare costs a staggering 251% of the average in-state tuition. In New York, it's 215% percent. In Nevada, it's 207%. In South Carolina, the state with the lowest national average cost for infant care, it still accounts for 58% of tuition.
The data is just as grim when it comes to putting older children in childcare, too.
So what does this mean in terms of your total budget? It's a question you may be asking yourself if you're considering parenthood or maybe want to have more kids.
The outlook is dire across the country, but how hard up you'll be depends on where you live. If you're a parent earning the minimum wage in New Hampshire, infant care accounts for an estimated 80% of your entire budget. That number is 73% in Kansas, 60% in Nevada, and 76% in Minnesota. If you're earning the minimum wage in Washington, D.C., infant care will eat up—wait for it—102% of your budget. That's every single dollar you earn and then some.
Here's what that looks like in practical terms, according to EPI:
For example, to meet the demands of infant care costs for a year, a minimum-wage worker in Hawaii—the state with the median state minimum wage ($7.75)—would have to devote his or her entire earnings from working full time (40 hours a week) from January until September.
Now try to imagine working for nine months without devoting a single dollar to food, rent, utilities, transportation, healthcare, student loans, or something crazy like going to see a movie.
It is literally impossible. But this unrealistic budgeting is exactly what the United States demands of parents by not guaranteeing that they have access to affordable childcare, a living wage, and essential benefits like paid leave. It's a cruel fantasy that American parents don't need basic support afforded to families in virtually every single other wealthy nation. If you don't believe that on its face, just look at the numbers and ask how, exactly, a single mom in Boston is supposed to feed her kids after spending 90% of her income to make sure that her baby is safe and cared for while she's at work.