Most Americans believe that through hard work and saving they can secure an economically sound, middle-class lifestyle. But for many working families, the high price of child care makes this goal extremely challenging.
In this brief, we present estimates of the number of families that cannot maintain a middle-class income as a result of child care expenses. We find that, indeed, many working families cannot attain middle-income status because of child care expenses, while many additional families maintain this status by relying on unpaid child care, informal arrangements with family or friends, or below-market-rate services, potentially from unlicensed care providers. An even greater share of middle-class families would be pushed out if they incurred typical child care costs.