A new report from Forward Analytics, Priced Out: The Steep Cost of Childcare in Wisconsin, shows childcare costs average between 18 and 36% of family income. And that is assuming they can find care since the number of childcare workers in the state declined 26% from 2010 to 2022.

In Wisconsin, the $13,572 average annual cost of infant childcare in 2021 was greater than the $10,766 annual tuition at UW-Madison.

According to the new study, childcare for two young children costs more than $25,000 per year, more than the $22,000 price tag for tuition at UW-Madison.

This cost is not driven by high pay for childcare workers. In 2022, median wage just over $26,000 per year and 13th lowest out of 546 occupations. Due in part to low wages, especially compared to other occupations, the number of childcare workers declined in recent years. In 2010, there were 20,580 such workers in Wisconsin. By 2015, that number had fallen to 18,080 and then to 16,060 in 2019. In 2021, Wisconsin had 15,210 such workers, a drop of more than 26% from 2010.

One of the reasons for the departure of these workers is rising pay for competing occupations. “Wisconsin’s severe worker shortage has pushed up wages in all occupations at the low end of the pay scale,” said Forward Analytics Deputy Director Kevin Dospoy. “Many of these occupations now pay significantly more than childcare workers, making them more attractive to workers in this industry.”  

Finding a solution to this crisis is difficult. If pay for childcare workers continues to fall short, the number of workers in the industry will decline further, exacerbating the access problem. However, raising pay to attract and retain workers will increase the cost of the service and make it even less affordable for young families.

Read the full report, Priced Out: The Steep Cost of Childcare in Wisconsin, here.