Report | April 2, 2024

$2.7 Billion: The Growing, Annual Cost of the Infant-Toddler Child Care Crisis in Colorado

Impacts affect families, businesses, and taxpayers

Colorado’s working parents know how difficult it is to find child care that’s accessible, affordable, and high-quality. This problem is particularly acute for parents of very young children, as infant and toddler care is typically the least available and most expensive. Further, children under age 3 are experiencing one of the most crucial periods of brain development.

CSI’s research on child care in 2022 tells us that a family in Colorado with an infant and a 4-year-old would spend on average 37.9% of their household income on child care, topping what most spend on a mortgage. That would make child care the #1 household expense, which has driven many women out of the workforce, especially mothers.

Kelly Caufield, Executive Director, Common Sense Institute

ReadyNation’s new study found that the lack of adequate child care for infants and toddlers imposes substantial and long-lasting economic consequences in Colorado. Effects are felt by parents, businesses, and the state’s taxpayers, with an annual economic cost of $2.7 billion in lost earnings, productivity, and revenue.

Productivity challenges affect both employers and employees, with parents reporting that problems with child care hurt their efforts and/ or time commitment at work. Two-thirds of Colorado parents surveyed reported being late for work, leaving work early, missing full days of work or being distracted at work due to child care struggles.

They have a wait list that’s over a year long. And so right now, she comes to work with me, which I’m grateful to have a boss that allows that, but it’s also super stressful to work with an infant by my side.

Aurora Mother of two, Building an Equitable Early Care and Learning System in Colorado: Case Studies (Early Milestones Colorado)

These challenges had predictable impacts: more than one-third of Colorado parents said they’ve been reprimanded and 20 percent have been let go or fired. As a result, Colorado families lose $1.52 billion per year in forgone earnings and job search expenses

Meanwhile, productivity problems cause Colorado employers to lose $780 million annually due to child care challenges faced by their workforce. Colorado taxpayers, in turn, lose $358 million each year in lower federal and state/local tax revenue.

Colorado is in an infant-toddler care crisis. As it grows, it tightens the screws on parents who just want to work and businesses that just want to operate. As it grows, so does the resulting economic drain. This isn’t just a family issue. This is a Colorado issue.

Jennifer Merva Stedron, Ph.D., Executive Director, Early Milestones Colorado

Beyond its impact on the workforce and economy today, Colorado’s child care crisis damages the future workforce by depriving infants and toddlers of nurturing, stimulating environments that support healthy brain development while their parents work.

Policymakers must support evidence-based policies and programs that enhance the availability and affordability of high-quality child care. In particular, policymakers must assist businesses in increasing employees’ access to child care; support efforts that help families find the child care they need; improve the child care subsidy program; and enhance child tax credits in years where there is a budget surplus. With wise investments, policymakers can improve life outcomes for thousands of Colorado children today and strengthen our state’s workforce and economy both now and in the years to come.

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