Condition of Education Looks at Changes in the Cost of Nonparental Childcare

AIR Analysis Finds Increased Out-of-Pocket Costs, Regardless of Care Arrangement

Washington, D.C. – Between 2001 and 2016, the cost of child care rose by nearly 50 percent or more for children under 6 years old who were not yet enrolled in kindergarten, according to a new report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). In 2016, center-based care was the most expensive childcare arrangement, with an average hourly out-of-pocket expense of $7.60, which is 72 percent higher than in 2001, when accounting for inflation.

Childcare arrangements can be influential in a child’s development and readiness for school, making data on access and cost an important indicator for policymakers, education leaders and the public.

The American Institutes for Research (AIR) assisted NCES in compiling The Condition of Education 2018, a congressionally mandated report that summarizes the latest data on education at all levels. AIR worked with data from complex survey designs, conducted statistical analyses and testing, and wrote key findings and indicators in the report.

AIR staff also authored one of the spotlights in the report, entitled Early Childhood Care Arrangements: Choices and Costs, which uses data from the 2016 Early Childhood Program Participation survey, a part of NCES’ 2016 National Household Education Survey program.

Infographic shows a 72% rise in center-based child care. The average hourly out-of-pocket cost adjusted for inflation: $4.42 in 2001, and $7.60 in 2016.

Among the findings in the spotlight report:

  • In 2016, about 60 percent of the 21.4 million children under 6 years old who were not yet enrolled in kindergarten were in some type of nonparental care arrangement on a regular basis—either in a center, with a relative or with a nonrelative;
  • The biggest percentage increase in cost was seen for families of children in childcare with relatives which rose 79 percent, with the average hourly out-of-pocket cost increasing from $2.78 per hour in 2001 to $4.99 in 2016 (in 2016-17 dollars). For families with children in nonrelative care, costs rose 48 percent, from $4.42 in 2001 to $6.54 in 2016;
  • Costs for nonparental childcare arrangements were higher in cities and suburbs than in towns and rural settings; and
  • Among children whose parents said they had difficulty finding child care, nearly one-third (32 percent) of children had parents who identified cost as the primary reason, followed by a lack of open slots for new children (27 percent) and quality (22 percent).

Visit the NCES website to view the complete report and spotlight features.

About AIR
Established in 1946, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., the American Institutes for Research (AIR) is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance both domestically and internationally in the areas of health, education, and workforce productivity. For more information, visit


Media Contact

Dana Tofig

Managing Director, Corporate Communications