Cost of Child Care for Single Mothers


Child care is the biggest expense for many parents with young children, ahead of housing and food.

Although the federal government provides some child care subsidies for low-income parents, the reality is that parents still pay a significant portion of their income for child care.

And the growing costs have put a tremendous strain on their budgets, especially for those with two or more children.

Among the 50 states, the annual cost of center-based infant care averaged well over 40% of the state median income for a single mother.

Massachusetts is the most unaffordable state for single mother families,1 with full-time center-based infant care costing more than half (62%) of their income.

Top 10 Least-Affordable States for Center-Based Infant Care in 20142

State Average Annual Cost Cost of care as a % of income
Massachusetts $17,062 62.8%
New York $14,144 54.5%
Illinois $12,964 54.0%
Minnesota $14,366 53.6%
Oregon $11,322 50.7%
Rode Island $12,867 49.2%
Washington $12,733 49.2%
Wisconsin $11,579 48.9%
Michigan $9,882 48.6%
Kansas $11,201 46.9%

The table above shows that the cost of child care as a percentage of their income is simply too high. In fact, in most states, one year of infant day care in a center is more expensive than a year of public college.

Even in less expensive states, single mothers likely couldn’t afford the cost of child care at all. Not when they have to spend one third of their monthly income on child care expenses.



Tables below show the ranking of least affordable states for single mothers with a 4-year-old and a school-age child.

The states were ranked from least affordable to most affordable, based on the cost of care compared to state median income for a single mother family.

Top 10 Least-Affordable States for Center-Based Care for a 4-Year-Old in 2014

State Average Annual Cost Cost of care as a % of income
Massachusetts $12,781 47.1%
New York $11,700 45.1%
Missouri $9,308 42.5%
Minnesota $11,119 41.5%
Vermont $9,970 40.5%
Wisconsin $9,469 40.0%
Illinois $9,567 39.8%
Montana $7,922 39.5%
Oregon $8,787 39.4%
Rhode Island $10,040 38.4%

Massachusetts’ child care, averaging $12,700 a year, is among the most expensive states to keep your 4-year-old kids in day care here. New York is close behind.

Top 10 Least-Affordable States for a School-age Child in a Center in 2014

State Average Annual Cost Cost of care as a % of income
Montana $7,778 38.8%
West Virginia $6,605 37.5%
Wisconsin $8,849 37.3%
Illinois $8,498 35.4%
Hawaii $8,919 32.2%
New York $8,346 32.2%
Kentucky $5,557 29.9%
Alabama $5,308 28.7%
Nevada/td>

$7,219 25.6%
Arizona $6,361 25.2%

Montana tops the least affordable list for before-/after-school care for a school-age child with 38.8% of the families’ income paying for child care. West Virginia, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Hawaii round out the top five.


  1. Affordability is a comparison of cost against state median income for a single mother family. []
  2. Child Care Aware®, Parents & The High Cost of Child Care: 2015 Report. State rankings do not include the District of Columbia. []