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Report: One-quarter of U.S. households with young children struggle to find child care

photo of kids at desk
British Columbia via Flickr

A year and a half into the pandemic, nearly five million American families continue to struggle with finding adequate childcare, with low-income households and households of color fairing the worst.

New researchfrom UNH’s Carsey School of Public Policy shows that just under 24-percent of households in the U.S. with children under the age of 12 were unable to find adequate childcare because it was unavailable or unaffordable. The data is from a Census Bureau survey taken in the late summer and fall of 2021, approximately 18 months into a pandemic that has reshaped household life for many.

“We have long understood that the childcare system has been problematic for many families, but the pandemic has really worsened a lot of those existing issues,” Jess Carson, research assistant professor at the Carsey School, said.

The study finds that while one-quarter of all households with children under 12 are impacted by a lack of childcare, the rates are even high in Black households, where one-third of all families reported a lack of childcare access within the previous four weeks.

Of those families impacted by the shortage of options, one in five said it directly led to a job loss.

Carson said at the root of the issue is a lack of early educators, with more than 100,000 having dropped out of the profession since the start of the pandemic.

“The early educator profession has historically been undervalued, undercompensated, has had really high turnover compared with other professions,” she said.

Carson says her research group will begin studying the impact of the shortage of childcare options on women, who bear a disproportionate economic burden.

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.
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