Most Americans believe a lack of child care often prevents mothers from working outside the home

Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
July 18, 2022, 1:31 PM GMT+0

Recent reporting by the New York Times highlights the negative impacts that child-care shortages are having on some working parents, especially mothers. According to some economists, the high cost of child care and the shrinking supply of caregivers pushes many women who would otherwise be employed out of the labor market. Previously a global leader in terms of women’s labor-force participation, the U.S. has now fallen far behind many countries it previously surpassed. Some experts say that a primary reason for this is a lack of support for new parents, including affordable child care and access to paid parental leave.

In a recent poll, YouGov asked more than 5,000 Americans their views on if — and to what extent — a lack of child care prevents mothers and fathers who want to work outside the home from doing so. Far more Americans think child-care shortages harm mothers than think it harms fathers. A majority of Americans – 71% – say a lack of child care somewhat or very often prevents mothers from working. Half as many – 36% – say the same about fathers.

Mothers of children under age 18 are especially likely to believe child-care shortages have affected mothers’ ability to participate in the labor market: 81% say this, compared to 71% of Americans overall. When it comes to how fathers have been affected, men with children under 18 are more likely than mothers of children under 18 — 52% vs. 39% — to say a lack of care at least somewhat often keeps fathers from working.

How much does child care cost in the United States? While estimates vary based on location, recent data from the Center for American Progress suggests that the average cost of center-based infant care in the U.S. is around $1,300 per month ($16,000 annually). High-quality infant care, which goes beyond meeting basic licensing regulations, costs closer to $2,400 per month. When asked what they think the average cost of a month of care is, only around one in four Americans (27%) correctly estimate somewhere within this range (from around $1,200 to more than $1,600). About half (52%) estimate the monthly cost of child care to be around $1,000 or less, and 22% say they aren’t sure.

Americans who say that child-care costs very often prevent mothers from working are more likely than others to accurately estimate the average cost of infant care: 35% estimate it costs $1,200 or more, compared to around one in five of people who say a lack of care doesn’t often prevent mothers from working.

See the toplines and crosstabs from this poll:

Methodology: This Daily Agenda survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 5,392 U.S. adults interviewed online on July 14 - 15, 2022. The samples were weighted to be representative of the U.S. population, based on gender, age, race, education, U.S. census region, and political party.

Image: Sarah Chai via Pexels