How Much Does Day Care Typically Cost?

For many new parents, returning to work after the birth of their first child is one of the hardest things to do. Finding someone you trust to care for your baby is a scary endeavor, with many emotional factors becoming a part of your final decision. There are financial considerations as well, and parents often feel trapped between wanting the best care and not being able to afford it. Since one of the guiding factors in many child-care decisions is money, it's important to know how much to expect to spend on a day-care center.

Infants and Toddlers

The National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies provides a list of average day-care costs 4. Their findings take into consideration the higher costs involved in placing infants and toddlers into day care, as this age group requires more caregivers per child in order to provide increased hands-on attention 4. The average reported cost of day care in the United States is $11,666 per year, or $972 per month. This includes a range of $3,582 to $18,773 per year, depending on factors such as location and quality of the center. The most expensive state for infant and toddler day care is Massachusetts, with an average cost of $14,980 per year. Mississippi is the most affordable state, with an average cost of $4,650 per year.


According to NACCRRA, the average cost of day care for children 3 to 5 years old is $8,800 per year, or $733 per month. This includes a range of $4,460 to $13,185. Massachusetts and New York were among the states with the highest day-care costs for preschool-age children, each averaging more than $11,500 per year. Mississippi, Kentucky and Louisiana rank among the least-expensive states, with average costs of $4,000 to $7,000 per year.

Costs are High

NACCRRA reports that the average annual cost of infant daycare in 40 states is more than 10 percent of the state’s median two-parent income. In relation to household expenses, these day-care costs are more than median rent payments in 22 states for the care of just one child, and more than median rent payments in all 50 states when it comes to providing care for two children 4. It is more expensive in 35 states to send your child to day care than pay for a year’s worth of tuition and books at an in-state college.

What Are You Paying For?

There are benefits to center-based day cares that help parents justify higher costs over other options. With a fully staffed team of care providers available during regular hours, parents can count on the reliability of a center over individual care providers. Centers also often have lesson plans in place that help develop your children’s motor, social and intellectual development. Parents may also feel safer leaving their children in the hands of a child-care center that is subject to several state regulations rather than an individual care provider who may be following his or her own rules 4.