64% of Parents Say Inadequate Child Care Access Negatively Impacts Their Daily Lives

Nearly half of Generation Z and millennial parents or guardians say they've already had to sacrifice something in their life due to limited access to child care.

April 14, 2022 · Updated on April 14, 2022

64% of Parents Say Inadequate Child Care Access Negatively Impacts Their Daily Lives
Data Studies
Photo by Jose Luis Pelaez Inc / DigitalVision / Getty Images

  • Work-life balance, saving money, available working hours, and mental health are most impacted by inadequate child care access.
  • 56% of parents have postponed career-related activities due to limited child care access.
  • 59% believe not having access to proper child care hinders working parents' career advancement.

Balancing parenthood and a career is no easy feat, especially when access to proper child care is limited. In a new BestColleges survey of 759 American parents or guardians of at least one child under age 18, 64% say their day-to-day life has been negatively impacted by inadequate child care access.

In addition to the impact on day-to-day life, about a third of parents/guardians (32%) say that inadequate child care access has hindered their ability to achieve their career goals, while two-fifths (40%) have had to sacrifice something in life because of it.

Despite these struggles, almost an equal amount of parents/guardians say the opposite. More than 2 in 5 respondents (43%) disagree that inadequate child care access has hindered their ability to achieve their career goals, while just over 1 in 3 respondents (36%) say they have not had to sacrifice something because of it.

Still, more than half of respondents (59%) believe that parents/guardians who do not have access to adequate child care are at a disadvantage when it comes to employment and career advancement.

Work-Life Balance Takes the Biggest Hit When Child Care Access Is Lacking

For many parents and guardians, work-life balance (28%) and the ability to save money (24%) are the aspects of day-to-day life that have been most impacted by inadequate child care access. However, almost a third of parents/guardians (29%) say that access to child care has never impacted their day-to-day life as a working parent.

Definition of Child Care Access: With reasonable effort and affordability, parents/guardians can reliably place their child in an arrangement that provides quality development for the child while parents/guardians are unable to care for them (due to work, school, caregiving outside the home, etc.).

This definition was provided to survey participants.

Younger parents/guardians (age 18-34) are almost twice as likely as older parents/guardians (age 55+) to say their work-life balance has been most impacted by inadequate child care access (37% vs. 20%). Younger parents/guardians are also more than three times as likely as older parents/guardians to say their motivation at work (16% vs. 5%) and their mental health (19% vs. 6%) have suffered the biggest impacts.

Parents/guardians with four-year degrees are more likely than those without a degree to say their work-life balance has been impacted the most (35% vs. 20%).

Female parents/guardians are almost twice as likely as male parents/guardians to say their available working hours have been impacted most (21% vs. 12%). (Note: The survey did not include other gender categories besides male and female.)

Most Parents Postpone Career Activities Due to Poor Child Care Access

More than half of parents/guardians (56%) report that inadequate access to child care has prevented or postponed some career-related activities.

Over a third of parents/guardians (38%) report that they have not had any aspect of their career prevented or postponed due to inadequate access to child care.

Generally, parents/guardians who have higher levels of educational attainment are more likely than those with lower levels to have had the following career-related activities prevented or postponed due to inadequate child care access: changing roles or workplaces, getting jobs, conducting job searches, and increasing lifetime earnings potential by working towards raises/promotions or getting a side job.

For example, respondents who have a two-year degree are twice as likely as those who have no postsecondary degree to say inadequate child care access prevented or postponed a change in role or workplace (14% vs. 7%). Respondents who have a four-year degree are nearly twice as likely as those who have a two-year degree to say the same (26% vs. 14%).

Parents/guardians who have a four-year degree are also nearly three times as likely as those without a postsecondary degree to say inadequate child care access prevented or postponed a job search (19% vs. 7%).

Younger parents/guardians (age 18-34) are three times as likely as older parents or guardians (age 55+) to say that inadequate access to child care prevented or postponed a change in role or workplace (18% vs. 6%).

Generally, there were almost no significant differences in prevention or postponement of career-related activities between male and female parents/guardians. Across the board, female parents/guardians are only slightly more likely than male parents/guardians to report that their career-related activities were prevented or postponed due to inadequate access to child care. Differences between the two for most activities were five percentage points or less.

The only career activity that female parents/guardians are significantly more likely to report preventing or postponing than their male counterparts is getting a job (25% vs. 10%). Conversely, male parents/guardians are significantly more likely to say access to child care has not prevented or postponed any aspects of their career (46% vs. 31%).

More Than Half of Parents Want the Government to Intervene

Fifty-six percent of respondents agree that the government should take steps to improve child care access for parents/guardians. The majority of respondents (58%) also believe that if parents/guardians had adequate child care access, there would be positive economic impacts.

In President Biden's State of the Union address last month, he spoke about multiple ways he hopes to extend aid to families with children. However, when and how these initiatives will be brought to life is not yet evident.

In the meantime, parents/guardians could use the assistance as they juggle parenthood and employment. Fifty-seven percent of respondents agree that people should not have to choose between pursuing a career and being a parent/guardian. Yet, a significant number of parents/guardians report that they've had to sacrifice (40%) and put goals aside (32%) due to lack of proper child care.

Nearly half (49%) of Generation Z and millennial parents/guardians (age 18-40) say they have already had to sacrifice something in life due to inadequate child care access. They are significantly more likely than older generations (baby boomers and the silent generation, age 57+) to report this (29%).

As parents and guardians continue to try and balance career accomplishments and parenthood, they hope to have more assistance on child care.

Methodology

BestColleges.com commissioned YouGov PLC to conduct the survey. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov PLC. The total sample size was 759 adult parents or guardians. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all U.S. adult (age 18+) parents/guardians of at least one child under age 18. Fieldwork was undertaken on March 21-28, 2022. The survey was carried out online and meets rigorous quality standards.