Just too Expensive: Childcare in Massachusetts
Updated: Aug 8, 2022
By Vikrant Sabharwal
The child care costs in Massachusetts have been extremely high throughout the pandemic era. The cost in Massachusetts is the highest in the country.
On average, infant care costs over $20,000 per year for infants. For children four years or older, its average cost is $15,000 per year.
Despite this, child care workers remain very lowly paid. In Massachusetts, the median child care worker earns $14.98 per hour, equivalent to around $40,000 per year.
A major reason for the high prices comes from the nationwide labor shortage. Keeping child care centers staffed throughout COVID-19 has been a challenge as well. Like numerous other industries, they faced severe labor shortages. Current workers in child care have had to had shifts up to 10 hours long. The increase in pay that Massachusetts child care centers have had to provide has pushed them to raise their rates.
State regulations have also contributed to the expenses. The state requires that there must be a ratio of one staff member to a specific number of children, depending on the age group. For example, there must be one staff member for every three infants. Employing more staff to meet these requirements has led to higher prices at child care centers. These regulations in Massachusetts are stricter than those in almost all other states in the country, and many child care centers believe them to be overburdening.
More support from the state government can help this issue as the government has not been providing enough support to make child care more affordable in Massachusetts. Lack of support for childcare centers is an issue that extends beyond Massachusetts to the rest of the country. Among the 38 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the US is in the bottom four regarding how much of their GDP they invest in child care. In Massachusetts, existing programs that look to support child care costs for low-income families, leave out many families in need.
The high costs are particularly harmful as well to families who earn average salaries that do not qualify them for assistance from the state government. The government expanding its support to accommodate these families, whose incomes are still relatively low, would be critical to making child care more accessible.
Numerous different policy recommendations have been tossed around to make child care more accessible. Child care advocates have called for a universal early childhood program, funded by the state. This guarantees high-quality child care for free for all children from birth to age 5. Belgium, Denmark, Lithuania, Norway, and Slovenia currently have free childcare programs. The cost of a universal child care program in the US is estimated to be around $8 billion.
There are numerous opponents to this policy however. “People who have kids should pay for their kids,” said a Milford resident. “I have a child, no one should have to give any of their money to raise something I chose to have.”
Some families have taken it upon themselves to avoid the expensive rates, transferring their kids from daycare in Massachusetts to New Hampshire, where the rates are significantly less expensive. A big reason for the price discrepancy comes down to the impact of regulations mentioned earlier, as New Hampshire has limited regulations on child care operations.
While legislative action has been very limited so far, there is still some opportunity for optimism. Numerous state legislators have expressed support for making child care more affordable.
“We need to close the child care access gap for working families,” State Senator Eric Lesser said during a recent State House hearing. “We also need to increase salary and training opportunities for child care workers.”