Lancaster County sees increase in childcare costs

Lincoln parents feeling extra pinched since the pandemic
Published: Nov. 4, 2022 at 10:27 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - It’s being called a crisis in the U.S. and Lincoln: the rising cost of childcare. The latest data shows local prices have jumped significantly since 2019.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, right before the pandemic all the parents for nearly 80% of Lincoln kids and teens were in the workforce. That was higher than the national average. It’s uncertain how that’s changed since the pandemic began, but one this is for sure, costly childcare is on the minds of moms and dads.

The latest Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services Market Rate Survey shows a dire trend, and Lincoln parents are feeling the pinch.

“We’re often in a situation where families are making choices that aren’t really choices,” said Lindsay Bartlett, a Lincoln parent. “They’re kind of pushed into a situation because of financial reasons.”

Bartlett, a parent of two children, the youngest who’s three, still questions whether she and her partner should both stay in the workforce.

“I would say I even still grapple with it on an almost daily basis, and my oldest is seven,” Bartlett said.

According to the survey, the average annual childcare cost in Lancaster County was over $14,000 in 2021, compared to $7,500 in 2019.

“Inflation has been playing into that to a large extent,” said Stacey Hoffman, NU Public Policy Center. “And there’s also some wage pressure, so we know that childcare center workers earn just about $11 an hour, which is not very much to live on.”

The NU Public Policy Center said looking at the survey, the cheapest childcare option last year was more expensive than a year of resident tuition and fees at UNL, something that’s never been the case since that data set started in 2013.

Researchers point out that the 2021 survey did have a smaller response rate than the one in 2019, so that may have affected the numbers, but it’s clear that costs have gone up.

Bartlett said her 3-year-old’s preschool in Lincoln will cost about $12,000 this year, right between the 2019 and 2021 survey averages for pre-school. Thankfully, it’s a facility she’s very happy with.

“We’re fortunate that we’ve been able to afford the high quality care,” Bartlett said.

Right now, there appears to be no end in sight to the cost rise and worker shortage.