It Takes a Village

Richard Connor

FINDING HIGH-QUALITY, affordable childcare has always been a challenge, but it became especially so during the pandemic. Suddenly, thousands of parents were working from home. Many childcare centers closed or restricted new enrollment. Our small South Jersey town saw an influx of families fleeing New York and Philadelphia. That put a strain on limited local resources, and spots for the summer have been hard to find.

I know a little about this because my youngest son and daughter-in-law have been struggling to find consistent childcare for their 17-month-old son James. They’ve been successful, but it’s taken a combination of babysitters, flexible work schedules and extended family support.

The childcare website Winnie shows that, in Manhattan, there’s a one-year waiting list for infants and a two-year waiting list for preschool children. According to Winnie, childcare in Manhattan—one of the most expensive places in the country to live—costs between $1,300 and $2,500 per month. This equates to $15,600 to $30,000 per year.

That sounds like a lot of money for childcare and, for most U.S. families, it would be. But I think it’s helpful to look at the cost on a per-hour basis. Assuming a child attends 48 weeks a year and 40 hours per week, that’s 1,920 hours of childcare per year. At the high end of $30,000, that’s $15.63 per hour. That’s similar to what the fast-food restaurants are paying in our area. My conclusion: As expensive as childcare is, it seems like a bargain compared to many of the other services we pay for.

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