Infant Care Not Affordable for Vast Majority of Wyoming Families
CHEYENNE, WY. | ERIC GALATAS, (Public News Service) – A new Economic Policy Institute report shows how hard it is for Wyoming families to pay for early child care and education for one child, let alone two.
Zane Mokhiber, a data analyst at the Institute, says most people don’t think of infant care as a particular cost burden, when compared with expenses such as education and housing, but it’s actually one of the bigger costs facing families.
A typical Wyoming family with two children has to spend more than 27% of its income for child care.
“The cost of infant care in Wyoming on average is $10,600 a year,” Mokhiber points out. “The average cost of in-state tuition at a four-year public college is $4,400, so it’s $6,200 more.”
Child care for an infant and a four-year-old costs nearly $20,000 a year. That’s 48% more than the average rent in Wyoming.
The report’s recommendations include giving 12 weeks of paid family leave for parents of newborns.
Critics of paid family leave warn the move would hurt businesses and lead to increased costs for consumers.
Mokhiber says paid family leave would allow more parents to be with infants during formative weeks, and would give parents peace of mind knowing their job is safe and they can still pay rent.
Mokhiber notes if child care costs were capped at 7% of income, the federal affordability target, fewer people would drop out of the job market to care for children.
The move would benefit the economy overall, he says, because more people working means more people spending money.
“Child care is one of the most important investments we can make in this country, and research shows that investment in early care and education pays for itself in the long run in terms of making sure that children are educated from a very young age,” he states.
Child care is mathematically out of reach for low-wage workers. A minimum-wage worker in Wyoming would need to work full time for a full year just to pay for child care for one infant.
Currently, only 8% of Wyoming families can afford infant care, according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services standards.
Nationally, only 14% of workers have paid family leave through their jobs.