According to a new study by ReadyNation, the rising annual cost of childcare now totals $122 billion. The pre-pandemic cost equalled $57 billion.

The staggering number is the result of a total sum of lost earnings, productivity and revenue that the infant-toddler childcare crisis has produced.

The childcare crisis impacts the economy through its damaging effects on both employers and employees. 85% of primary caregivers reported that their focus at work and commitment to work are negatively affected due to challenges with childcare. Close to two-thirds of infant and toddler parents who struggle with childcare said they are either late to work or forced to leave work early.

Plus, more than half said they were distracted at work or that they had to miss whole days. Of course, all of these issues have follow-up repercussions as well. Nearly one quarter said they’ve been fired due to childcare problems and more than a quarter reported being “reprimanded” at work. Here’s the breakdown of how much everyone loses when parents don’t have access to childcare:

  • Families lose $78 billion annually
  • Employers lose $23 billion annually
  • Taxpayers lose $21 billion annually

Families lose billions due to job search expenses and the earnings they would have received if it weren’t for childcare issues. For employers, they lose out through productivity problems when their workforce is plagued by childcare challenges. As for taxpayers, the lower federal and state/local tax revenue results in billions of dollars in losses nationwide.

The annual cost of childcare is just a monetary loss. The effects of the childcare crisis go beyond what we can calculate with numbers. That’s because these issues create a domino-effect where infant and toddlers are deprived of, “nurturing, stimulating environments that support healthy brain development while their parents work.”

Even though the Senate recently passed the Inflation Reduction Act in August 2022, a few senators spoke up about the fact that there was no mention of childcare anywhere in the bill.

“Our childcare system isn’t just stretched thin; it is broken,” said Senator, Patty Murray (D-WA).

What exactly are parents supposed to do when childcare falls through? Seeing parents come up with scrappy solutions, like the meteorologist mom who wore a baby carrier on live TV, might be momentarily cute but it’s not a realistic (or sustainable) solution for everyone. There isn’t a failsafe that parents or caregivers can enact in unexpected situations.

And, when you think about how the federal minimum wage hasn’t been raised since 2009 and yet, the cost of childcare continues to rise unchecked, it’s enough to make you shake your head in frustration. The country’s failure to enact policies that strengthen our weak childcare system can only negatively impact everything from the economy to the future of our children, as proven by the results of the study.

When mothers thrive, families thrive and, when families thrive, the children being raised in those families, who will grow up to run the country tomorrow, will be in that much better of a position to grow into thriving adults.

“With wise investments, policymakers can improve life outcomes for millions of children today and strengthen the workforce and economy both now and in the years to come.”