Study: High Child-Care Costs Are a Hurdle for First-Time Home Buyers

Study: High Child-Care Costs Are a Hurdle for First-Time Home Buyers

By: The Washington Post

The damping effect of student loan debt on homeownership has been much discussed. Student loan debt reached a record of $1.41 trillion in 2019, according to Experian credit report agency, up 33 percent from $1.06 trillion from 2014.

But another expense may be delaying some from entering the housing market: child-care costs. A recent study by Freddie Mac found that, adjusted for inflation, child care expenses jumped by 49 percent over the past 25 years. During that same period — 1993 to 2018 — housing costs rose by 14 percent when adjusted for inflation.

Freddie Mac’s research found families with child-care expenses had less money to spend on their housing costs.

According to Freddie Mac’s research, families spend an average of $715 per month on child care. For families with younger children, the cost averages $948. The percentage of income spent on child care varies but hits lower-income families harder. Researchers found families who earn less than $1,500 per month spend an average of 40 percent of their income on child care. Families with a monthly income of $4,500 and more spend about 7 percent of their income on those costs.

Child-care costs vary widely according to location, too. A study by Child Care Aware of America found that nationally, families with children who use center-based and family day care spend 13.3 percent of their income on child care. Families in Washington spend the highest percentage in the country, with 19.3 percent of their income going to child care expenses.

The only expense that has risen more than child care costs over the past 25 years is education, which increased by 90 percent between 1993 and 2018. Child-care expenses are as high as about half the national median mortgage payment and nearly 80 percent of the national median rent.

The impact of high child-care costs means families have less money to save for a future move to a larger rental home or to buy a home. Student loan payments, while also burdensome, averaged $378 in 2019, according to Freddie Mac, which is about half the average cost of child care.

For the full report from Freddie Mac, click here.