Child care costs hammer Nevada’s workforce

State’s care-related job disruption rate is nation’s 2nd highest

Brooke Grose was at home taking care of her two children, one a year old, and another born only six weeks ago. So she couldn’t talk on the phone to share her story about how the lack of affordable child care has hurt her career.

Instead, she responds by text, fitting in answers while juggling an already hectic life. 

Even trying to interview Grose underscores the point: When parents don’t have access to child care, it disrupts their life, hinders job opportunities and squashes earning potential. 

Data shows Grose is not alone. An analysis of Census data prepared by the Center for American Progress in February found that nearly one in 10 parents nationally had to quit a job, decline a job or greatly change their employment because of issues with child care.

Parents who leave the workforce due to the nation’s lack of affordable child care also lose benefits and retirement savings.

Nationally, the “child care crisis” causes job disruptions for 9 percent of households. In Nevada, it was 13 percent, which was the second highest in the country. Oregon had the highest with 14 percent. 

Jared Busker with the Children’s Advocacy Alliance said 13 percent seemed low, especially given Southern Nevada’s 24-hour service sector economy.

“To be able to afford child care you should pay no more than 7 percent of your total income,” Busker said. “That’s not the majority of families.”

For most Nevada households seeking child care service, the care costs a lot more than that.

The Children’s Advocacy Alliance, along with the Nevada Institute for Children’s Research and Policy (NICRP) estimates child care costs $8,835 for preschoolers and up to $11,137 annually for an infant at licensed centers. 

At an interim Legislative Committee on Health Care in January, state Department of Health and Human Services officials told lawmakers  the average cost of child care for one infant in Clark County is $12,124. 

The cost estimates are similar to those in an Economic Policy Institute report last year that found child care in Nevada can cost more than college, and rivals the cost of rent.

Finding affordable child care is a struggle Grose understands too well. 

“The one nearest (daycare) to my home is close to $800 a month for full time for one child, and that doesn’t include supplies that they would need and an enrollment fee of $300,” Grose said. 

Grose has been a hair stylist for nine years. Her husband is a police officer. 

“His schedule changes a lot and he’s on call four days out of the week,” she added. “Because of that, I’m only able to work three days a week. This has taken a huge toll on my income. Last year, I made a third of what I’m typically used to making. We have decided it’s best for our children if we are the ones home with them the majority of the time, and the cost of daycare is a huge factor of this.”

The Center for American Progress estimated it costs the economy $57 billion annually in lost revenue, wages and productivity. 

A separate EPI study earlier this year estimated just the cost of lost income due to parents leaving jobs or reducing their hours in order to care for children at as much as $35 billion nationally.

Neither research estimates the economic impact on Nevada specifically.

The drain on families is even more intense in rural and Latinx communities, as well as for families who have children with disabilities, according to the CAP study. 

In 2019, Nevada lawmakers passed Assembly Bill 234, which requires developing a state plan to increase the availability of child care for children with disabilities. 

At the interim committee meeting in January, possible solutions discussed to address child care in general included allocating more state funding to supplement federal subsidies, streamlining Nevada’s rate and copay system, funding child care startup grants to increase licensed child care facilities and expanding parental leave policies.

Busker didn’t advocate any specific legislation — it’s too early to determine what legislators will propose — but said in general the Children’s Advocacy Alliance is looking at ways to increase state funding to invest in mental health, education and, of course, child care. 

Grose plans to eventually enroll her children into child care when they turn 2, but she still won’t be able to work full time. 

“We would love if there was somewhere that children under 2 could go part time,” she said. “In our area, there aren’t any daycares that offer that. Also, now that I have two children, the expense would be more than my salary if I had to put both in daycare.”