Affordable for whom? The cost of child care in Pa. | The Numbers Racket

In Pennsylvania, child care for two children – an infant and a four-year-old – would cost a typical family $21,614 annually

By: - May 9, 2022 7:25 am

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The COVID-19 pandemic has drawn increased attention to the cost of child care in Pennsylvania and across the country. 

Using data from the Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, let’s take a look at the current cost of child care in the commonwealth.


The annual cost of infant care in Pennsylvania is $11,842 or $987 per month. 

Child care for a four-year-old costs $9,773 annually or $814 per month. 

Infant care in Pennsylvania is 8.1 percent more than the average cost of rent, according to EPI data. 


Child care should take up no more than 7 percent of a families’ income in order to be considered “affordable,” according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

Using the same standard, that means only that infant care is only affordable to 10.6 percent of Pennsylvanians. 

For a minimum wage worker, making between approximately $15,080 per year, infant care would take up 78.5 percent of their income. 

Families with more than one child also face steep costs when it comes to child care. 

In Pennsylvania, child care for two children – an infant and a four-year-old – would cost a typical family $21,614 annually – 49.7 percent more than the average cost of rent in the commonwealth. 

A typical family, earning a median income of $67,828 would have to spend 31.9 percent of its income in order to pay for child care for an infant and a four-year-old in Pennsylvania. 

Potential Fixes

In a June 2021 report for the Center for American Progress, a public policy research organization, Simon Workman, principal and co-founder of Prenatal to Five Fiscal Strategies, wrote that the issue could be addressed through “strategic government support,” including by adjusting state subsidy rates to reflect the current costs of child care and expanding the program to allow more families to qualify for assistance. 

“This increased investment will create better wages, a more stable educator workforce, and sustainable systems for children, families, and communities,” Workman said.

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Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry.