October 21, 2019

Washington’s Economy Takes a Hit Due to Child Care Crisis

TACOMA, WA – OCT. 21, 2019 – Washington’s employers incurred an estimated $2.08 billion in costs due to employee turnover and absenteeism caused by our state’s child care crisis, according to a new report out today. These costs, combined with the opportunity cost to employers for lost productivity and investment prospects, add up to an estimated overall hit to Washington’s gross domestic product (GDP) of $6.5 billion last year.

These findings are part of a new report from the Washington State Child Care Collaborative Task Force, created in 2018 by the state legislature to identify new ways to expand access to high-quality, affordable child care. The task force brings businesses, child care providers, parents and legislators together to focus on the importance of child care to our state’s economy. Multiple partners, including the Washington State Department of Commerce, the Association of Washington Business and Child Care Aware of Washington (CCA of WA), contributed to the report.

“At Child Care Aware of Washington we know working parents struggle to find quality, affordable child care, and we know child care providers struggle to keep their doors open. We also know that high-quality child care is extremely important for young children, who spend thousands of hours in child care each year while their brains are undergoing the most rapid phase of development. We are encouraged to see the legislature and new partners exploring ways Washington can alleviate the child care crisis,” said Ryan Pricco, director of advocacy and policy at CCA of WA.

Some key findings in the Mounting Costs of Child Care report:

  • 60% of Washington’s homes with children under age six have all adults working
  • 27% of parents quit their job or left school/training due to child care issues
  • 27% of parents changed their hours to part-time from full-time due to child care issues
  • 67% of Washington employers report absenteeism caused by child care issues
  • 9% of parents were terminated from work due to child care issues

“This report clearly shows more investment is needed in our state’s child care system. Right now only 1.1% of the state budget is for early learning and child care. Increased investment from the state and federal government, as well as from one of the primary beneficiaries of child care – the business community, would go a long way toward alleviating the child care crisis,” noted Pricco.

”Child care is not just a working parent issue, it’s an economic issue,” said Washington State Department of Commerce Director Dr. Lisa Brown. “In addition to hurting children and families, the lack of access to quality, affordable child care impacts employers, weighing on the economic vitality and growth that strengthens communities throughout the state.”

Parents of infants and young children across Washington struggle to find and afford high-quality, licensed child care, often paying more for child care than the cost of college tuition. Washington ranks on the top 10 list of states with least affordable child care for almost all types of care for children ages 0-5. The average cost of child care in our state for an infant and a preschooler in a center consumes 34 percent of the state median household income. The average cost of care for both children in a family home child care program consumes 27 percent of the median income. Overall, the cost of child care compared to family income has risen during the past six years. Since 2011, median child care rates have increased between 19-22 percent for center-based care and 14-22 percent for family child care,while median household income has increased just 18 percent.2

Solving Washington’s child care crisis requires increased public, business and philanthropic investment in child care and early learning programs. CCA of WA advocates for increased investment, both public and private, and for increased access to high-quality care. We work with providers to improve child care quality and help providers save time and money on the business side of their programs with our online shared business services portal Washington Child Care Business Edge. CCA of WA also tracks child care supply, demand and costs statewide and in every county. Our data reports are available here: https://staging.childcareawarewa.org/advocacy.

Child Care Aware of Washington is a non-profit, 501 (c) (3) organization dedicated to connecting families to local, high-quality, licensed child care and early learning programs, and to supporting providers who deliver high-quality care. As a statewide network of six regional agencies, we work side-by-side with child care providers, offering professional development services and higher education scholarships to help providers integrate research-based, best practices into their programs. We are committed to ensuring that each and every child in Washington, regardless of race, religion, gender, ethnicity, culture, primary language or economic status, has access to the quality care and early learning they need to succeed in school and life. For more information, please visit our website at http://wa.childcareaware.org and follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Child-Care-Aware-of-Washington-149636987661/ and on Twitter @childcarewa.



  1. Child Care Aware of Washington’s 2018 Data Report: Trends, Child Care Supply, Cost of Care & Demand for Referrals
  2. Washington State Office of Financial Management. Median Household Income, 2017 Projected. https://www.ofm.wa.gov/washington-data-research/economy-and-labor-force/median-household-income-estimates. March 2018