States With the Cheapest Childcare Costs

A Credit Karma Study

Gaby Lapera and Andrew Depietro — April 29, 2022

If you have kids or you’re thinking about having a baby, you probably already know that it can be an expensive proposition, especially when it comes to childcare.

Credit Karma looked at two key data sets — covering factors such as median family income and the cost of childcare for various age groups, sourced from the Economic Policy Institute and U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey 5-year estimates — to create a weighted formula for determining the states with the highest and lowest childcare costs. (Click here for the full methodology.)

The states with the cheapest childcare costs are (No. 1 is cheapest):

  1. Mississippi
  2. Alabama
  3. South Dakota
  4. South Carolina
  5. Arkansas

The states with the most expensive childcare costs are (No. 1 is highest):

  1. Massachusetts
  2. New York
  3. California
  4. Minnesota
  5. Colorado

Read on to see the cheapest and most expensive states for different kinds of childcare in our study.

Overall ranking of states with the cheapest childcare in 2022

In Credit Karma’s study, a lower score means that childcare costs were cheaper. The table below shows the overall rankings of the average annual childcare costs, per Economic Policy Institute’s report on childcare costs in America, and the U.S. Census Bureau’s median family income data to calculate the share of income that childcare consumes. The rankings were then created by scoring each state’s average infant care cost, 4-year-old childcare cost, and the percentage these costs take up of each state’s median family income, based on the Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey.

Rank State Average annual infant care cost Average annual 4-year-old childcare cost Average infant care as share of median family income Average 4-year-old childcare as share of median family income
1 Mississippi $5,436 $4,784 9.5% 8.4%
2 Alabama $6,001 $5,184 9.3% 8.0%
3 South Dakota $6,511 $6,349 8.7% 8.4%
4 South Carolina $7,007 $6,006 10.6% 9.1%
5 Arkansas $6,890 $5,478 11.6% 9.2%
6 Kentucky $6,411 $6,411 10.1% 10.1%
7 Idaho $7,474 $6,454 11.0% 9.5%
8 North Dakota $9,091 $8,221 10.5% 9.5%
9 Texas $9,324 $7,062 12.7% 9.6%
10 Oklahoma $8,576 $6,605 13.1% 10.1%
11 Utah $9,945 $7,646 12.2% 9.4%
12 Georgia $8,530 $7,306 12.0% 10.3%
13 Louisiana $7,724 $6,906 12.2% 10.9%
14 Missouri $10,041 $7,014 14.3% 10.0%
15 Florida $9,238 $7,282 13.7% 10.8%
16 Tennessee $8,732 $7,468 13.2% 11.3%
17 Ohio $9,697 $7,895 13.4% 10.9%
18 Maine $9,449 $8,292 12.8% 11.2%
19 Delaware $11,021 $8,876 13.3% 10.7%
20 Montana $9,518 $8,365 13.4% 11.8%
21 Iowa $10,378 $8,633 13.5% 11.2%
22 North Carolina $9,480 $8,113 13.9% 11.9%
23 New Mexico $8,617 $7,609 14.1% 12.5%
24 Wyoming $10,647 $9,009 13.3% 11.3%
25 Hawaii $13,731 $8,937 14.5% 9.4%
26 West Virginia $8,736 $7,644 14.7% 12.8%
27 Alaska $12,120 $10,087 13.1% 10.9%
28 New Jersey $12,988 $10,855 12.7% 10.6%
29 Kansas $11,222 $8,798 14.8% 11.6%
30 New Hampshire $12,791 $10,348 13.4% 10.9%
31 Michigan $10,861 $8,890 15.0% 12.2%
32 Arizona $10,948 $8,547 15.6% 12.2%
33 Maryland $15,335 $10,254 14.9% 9.9%
34 Nevada $11,408 $9,050 15.9% 12.6%
35 Pennsylvania $11,842 $9,773 15.1% 12.4%
36 Virginia $14,063 $10,867 15.6% 12.1%
37 Wisconsin $12,567 $10,197 16.0% 13.0%
38 Rhode Island $13,696 $10,687 15.9% 12.4%
39 Illinois $13,802 $10,372 16.6% 12.5%
40 Indiana $12,612 $9,557 17.7% 13.4%
41 Washington $14,554 $11,051 16.4% 12.5%
42 Oregon $13,616 $10,061 17.7% 13.1%
43 Connecticut $15,501 $12,731 15.4% 12.7%
44 Nebraska $12,571 $11,420 16.1% 14.6%
45 Vermont $12,812 $11,717 15.8% 14.5%
46 Colorado $15,325 $12,390 17.2% 13.9%
47 Minnesota $16,087 $12,252 17.9% 13.6%
48 California $16,945 $11,475 19.7% 13.4%
49 New York $15,394 $12,358 18.2% 14.6%
50 Massachusetts $20,913 $15,095 20.3% 14.6%

Generally, the south and middle of the country enjoyed less expensive care, while the northeast and west had more expensive childcare costs. The No. 1 cheapest state is Mississippi, while the No. 1 most expensive state is Massachusetts.

The cheaper states for childcare weren’t surprising for the most part (many are among the cheaper states to live in generally, according to another recent Credit Karma survey). But there were two outliers: Indiana and Nebraska, which ranked among the 12 most expensive states for childcare — but ranked among the 20 least expensive states in our study of the cheapest states to live in.

Here is a table showing the overall average costs for childcare in the United States. In this table, the cost of childcare as a percentage of the median family income was calculated using the U.S. median family income of $77,263, based on the Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey.

Type of childcare Annual cost Childcare as a percentage of median family income
Infant $11,420 14.8%
4-year-old $9,167 11.9%

The details: States with the cheapest childcare costs in 2022

Credit Karma turned to a childcare study created by the Economic Policy Institute to find the average cost of different types of childcare in every state.

According to that study, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services considers childcare affordable if it costs no more than 7% of a family’s income. Using this criteria, not one state in the nation has affordable childcare costs, based on average annual costs and median family incomes.

The five states with the cheapest infant care are:

Rank State Annual cost Median family income Cost as a      percentage of median income
1 Mississippi $5,436 $57,008 9.5%
2 Alabama $6,001 $64,430 9.3%
3 Kentucky $6,411 $63,684 10.1%
4 South Dakota $6,511 $75,168 8.7%
5 Arkansas $6,890 $59,455 11.6%

The five states with the cheapest childcare for a 4-year-old are:

Rank State Annual cost Median family income Cost as a percentage of median income
1 Mississippi $4,784 $57,008 8.4%
2 Alabama $5,184 $64,430 8.0%
3 Arkansas $5,478 $59,455 9.2%
4 South Carolina $6,006 $66,357 9.1%
5 South Dakota $6,349 $75,168 8.4%

The five states with the cheapest infant care based on its cost as a percentage of median family income are:

Rank State Annual cost Median family income Cost as a percentage of median income
1 South Dakota $6,511 $75,168 8.7%
2 Alabama $6,001 $64,430  9.3%
3 Mississippi $5,436 $57,008 9.5%
4 Kentucky $6,411 $63,684 10.1%
5 North Dakota $9,091 $86,249 10.5%

The five states with the cheapest childcare for 4-year-olds as a percentage of median family income are:

Rank State Annual cost Median family income Cost as a percentage of median income
1 Alabama $5,184 $64,430 8.0%
2 Mississippi $4,784 $57,008 8.4%
3 South Dakota $6,349 $75,168 8.4%
4 South Carolina $6,006 $66,357 9.1%
5 Arkansas $5,478 $59,455 9.2%

These states tend to have a lower cost of living, according to our survey on cheapest states, and that’s certainly reflected in their childcare costs. The one state that might be considered an outlier is North Dakota, which has the fifth lowest infant care costs as a percentage of median family income, yet is the 24th most expensive state.

Note that the overall rank isn’t based solely on the total average annual cost. Instead, it also takes into account median family income and the cost of care as a percentage of median family income.

Tips for managing your childcare costs

There’s no easy way around it. Childcare can be a huge expense. But you may have some options for lowering costs.

Banding together with neighbors or friends to hire a nanny could help reduce the price of your childcare. If two or three families split the cost, it could be manageable to have in-home care.

During the coronavirus pandemic, some families formed childcare or learning pods to help manage online learning and childcare while parents worked. Parents can take shifts watching the kids depending on their work schedules — and parents who don’t work can often be particularly flexible contributors in this kind of arrangement.

A more traditional option might be family. If you have the luxury of having family nearby that you trust, you could consider working something out with them to watch your kids. Those familial bonds might be enough incentive for a family member to care for your children for little or no pay — although in some cases that could put some strain on your relationships.

One last idea: Many states offer free or reduced-cost childcare for families below certain income limits. Check out your state’s resources for help paying for childcare.

Methodology

To identify the most and least expensive states for childcare, each state was analyzed using the following criteria:

  1. Average annual cost of infant childcare, sourced from Economic Policy Institute
  2. Average annual cost of 4-year-old childcare, sourced from Economic Policy Institute
  3. Median family income sourced from the Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey, 5-Year Estimates

Each state received a score for these factors, which were then added up, and all states were ranked.

Sources