New national US poll finds almost 70% of parents struggle to pay for childcare


A new national poll by the global children’s charity Theirworld has found parents across the US are struggling to pay for childcare, with 59% saying their childcare expenses have risen in the previous six months. In addition, 42% of “Gen Z” parents aged 18-24 reported spending between 30% and 70% of their income on childcare costs.

The poll of 1,048 parents and carers in the US also found that:

  • 69% of parents reported difficulty paying for childcare
  • 28% of those who previously used childcare services have had to stop as they could no longer afford it
  • 27% of those paying for childcare have left their job or studies to avoid the cost
  • 24% say they have reduced their standard of living to pay for childcare
  • 35% of those not using childcare services say it is down to not being able to afford it
  • 19% say they really struggle to pay for childcare expenses; this increases to 41% amongst low income parents
  • 69% want government to provide more funding towards childcare in early years

The new data is part of a global poll of more than 7,000 parents and carers with children under pre-school age across the UK, US, the Netherlands, India, Brazil, Turkey and Nigeria.

The findings point to a global early years crisis in which children across the world are being deprived of education and care in their most formative years due to the spiraling cost of nursery and pre-school fees.

The data shows that the situation is particularly bleak in the US, where more than a quarter – 27% – of parents say they have had to quit a job or drop out of their studies to avoid childcare costs. That is a higher proportion than in the United Kingdom (23%), Brazil (17%), Turkey (16%) and Nigeria (13%).

American parents also face a tougher struggle to afford nursery and childcare fees than their counterparts in the Netherlands, India, and Nigeria, the survey shows. More than two-thirds of parents in the US – 68% – say they find it difficult to meet childcare costs, the same proportion as in Brazil. This compared to 52% in India, 57% in the Netherlands, 60% in Nigeria, 72% in Turkey and 74% in the UK.

Two in three parents in the US – 66% – have had to make major financial changes to make ends meet. This includes taking on more work and spending less on their children’s food.

As world leaders prepare to gather in New York for the United Nations General Assembly [week of September 18], Theirworld is calling for a revolution in the provision of early years care and support.

“Providing for children in their early years must be treated as a public good, not a private test of a family’s financial strength,” said Sarah Brown, Chair of Theirworld. “Parents around the world should no longer be reduced to hoping for the best, crossing their fingers that the inadequate care they are often forced to use isn’t a risk to their child’s safety or their future prospects in life.”

“There is no coordinated, comprehensive, reliable system proactively working for American children, to lift them up to be their best selves in those crucial first five years of life when so much brain development takes place,” added Justin van Fleet, President of Theirworld.

“Early childhood care and development is too often left up to chance, luck, and private investment. The public support system doesn’t truly pick up until a child enters elementary school, where families expect there will finally be adequate support for basic education.”

The survey – conducted by Hall & Partners – is part of Theirworld’s Act For Early Years campaign, which is calling on governments around the world to urgently prioritize spending on the early years – not least because of the profound effect the quality of early years care can have on children and their families. Scientific research shows that 90% of a child’s brain is developed by the age of five.

An extensive and hard-hitting Act For Early Years report reveals that chronic underfunding has left more than half of all children around the world without access to the childcare they need. In addition, around half of pre-primary aged children are not enrolled in any form of early education.

Chronic underfunding means that more than half of all children around the world do not have access to the childcare they need, and around half of pre-primary aged children are not enrolled in any form of early education.

The US is among five of the 37 democracies in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries that spends the least on early education and childcare. Just 0.3% of its gross domestic product goes on early childhood services, a similar level to Turkey, Costa Rica, Ireland and Cyprus. Spending is highest in Iceland (1.7%) followed by Sweden (1.6%), Norway (1.4%), France (1.3%), and in Finland (1.1%).

President Joe Biden has set a goal of establishing universal pre-school care and education for the two years before children start primary school.

In this year’s State of the Union address, Biden cited studies showing that children who go to pre-school are nearly 50 percent more likely to finish high school and go on to earn a 2- or 4-year degree.


For more information, please contact: Eric Koch, or 617.733.6891

Research Methodology

The findings are based on market research conducted by Theirworld, in partnership with Hall & Partners. A survey was carried out among 7,226 respondents from UK, Brazil, India, Netherlands, Turkey and US, all of whom are parents of children aged 0-7, or childcare professionals.

About Theirworld

Theirworld is a global children’s nonprofit committed to ending the global education crisis and unleashing the potential of the next generation. Its mission is to ensure that every child has the best start in life, a safe place to learn and the skills they need for the future. See

About Hall & Partners

Hall & Partners is a team of unconventional thinkers, obsessed with how marketing influences the relationship between people, brands and culture. Born out of adland, we are the insight agency known for weaving creativity with science.

We distill data through a strategic lens to reveal “uncommon insights” – human truths tailored to individual brands, not blackbox data available to the masses. We partner with clients to shape brand strategy and optimise brand and campaign performance. Our award-winning approach amplifies insights across every business area, propelling marketing decision-making to create an unmatched competitive advantage.

For more information, visit