PoliGraph: Minnesota’s child care costs

poligraph-accurateEarlier this week, Gov. Mark Dayton unveiled a cornerstone of his second-term agenda: more assistance for people sending their kids to day care.

Dayton wants to expand an existing child care tax credit to cover 130,000 Minnesota families.

To make his case, Dayton’s administration said in a press release that Minnesota’s child care costs are unusually expensive.

“Right now in Minnesota, child care costs $901 per month, on average – totaling $10,812 per year just to provide quality care for one child. These high costs make Minnesota the 3rd-most expensive state in the nation for child care, based on the cost of infant care as a share of median income (15.5%).”

There are a lot of rankings and a lot of ways to measure the cost of care, but any way you look at it, Minnesota is among the most expensive places in the country to send children to day care.

The Evidence

To bolster Dayton’s argument, his staff points to a New York Times article from 2013 that ranked Minnesota the third most expensive state in the country to send an infant to a day care center.

The data comes from Child Care Aware America, and the group has a more recent report from 2014 that ranks Minnesota 4th in the nation, with the cost of sending an infant to day care eating up more than 15 percent of a married couple’s income.

As for the average cost, Dayton is referring to the expense of sending a four-year-old to day care, and his numbers are correct. It’s even more – nearly $14,000 on average – to send an infant to a child care center.

Dayton is referring to the cost of a day care center. But some parents send their kids to care providers who work out of their homes. According to the Child Care Aware America report, it’s far less expensive to go this route – between $7,000 and $8,000 annually, depending on the child’s age.

Executive director of Child Care Aware Minnesota Ann McCully said it’s tricky and unreliable to compare Minnesota’s in-home care costs to other states’ because licensing standards vary widely across the nation.

McCully also pointed out that one reason Minnesota’s care costs are so high is because most of the state’s day care centers are in the Twin Cities metropolitan area, where everything is more expensive than compared to rural areas. Other factors that contribute to high day care center costs are Minnesota’s relatively low student-to-teacher ratios and relatively rigorous training standards. As a result, Minnesota ranks high on quality of care standards.

The Verdict

Dayton’s numbers are correct, but they deserve some context.

For instance, it costs Minnesota parents less money to send their kids to an in-home day care.

Still, Dayton is using the more reliable data and rankings available to make his case, and for that his claim leans toward accurate.

  • Carolyn Jones

    Why not try and address the reason’s Minnesota’s costs are high before using more tax dollars to subsidize families making $120,000.

  • kevinfromminneapolis

    Wasn’t this the same source people were pointing to in 2013 when he was trying to unionize child care providers?

  • davehoug

    We want high quality….so we add regs….so we add costs….so we want low costs….so we subsidize. See everything government touches