Breaking News
More () »

'About 48% of the state is a child care desert': Arizonans spend 20% of income on child care, study says

Rural and tribal areas especially struggle with child care options.

Parents in Arizona spend more of their money on child care than most parents across the country.

According to a new analysis of US Census Bureau surveys by LendingTree, the average family in Arizona is paying about 20% of their income on child care costs.

That averages out to $318 a week for an average family income of $1,570 according to LendingTree. 

'I don’t work because childcare is so much'

As a mom of two kids, Annalisa Garcia knows how expensive it can be.

“I don’t work because childcare is so much,” Garcia said.

Arizona ranks eighth for spending the most of parents’ income on child care out of all 50 states, according to LendingTree’s findings.

“That’s a really big deal, because child care isn't one of those expenses that you can just cancel like a Spotify subscription,” said Matt Schulz, LendingTree’s chief credit analyst. “It's something that you have to deal with. And when those costs make up that big of a percentage of your income, it's a really, really big deal.”

Why is the cost so high?

Why Arizonans are having to pay so much is a multi-faceted issue.

Ginger Sandweg, senior director for early learning at First Things First said part of it is about the number of child care providers available.

“About 48% of the state is a child care desert," she said. "So just the availability of child care, I think contributes to the cost. If you can't find child care, you're going to have to pay more where you are finding it.”

Sandweg said the quality of child care also plays a factor in cost. Adding child care providers have to pay wages for skilled workers in these facilities.

“When you're really looking for a child care environment that has a highly skilled teacher, that is trained and understanding early childhood education, child development, that's going to make the cost even that much more expensive,” Sandweg said.

Starting last July, the Arizona Department of Health Services lowered licensing fees for childcare facilities to $1 through June 2024. Those fees are usually thousands of dollars for facilities.

“We saw that there wasn’t a lot of access to child care throughout the state,” Tom Salow, assistant director for licensing at ADHS said.

Salow said the number of new child care providers has been pretty much flat over the past 10 years, but over the past seven months with the new licensing fees, more providers are signing up.

As providers are licensed, they also then have oversight by ADHS.

“We’ve increased about 150 new licensees, 150 new facilities that can provide childcare services,” Salow said.

That’s about a 6% increase in the number of child care providers across the state of Arizona.

While it’s a help, Sandweg said more is needed, noting rural and tribal areas especially struggle to have child care options.

“150 is great, don’t get me wrong … I also know though that we’re going to have to do a whole lot more if we really want families to be able to access affordable child care in Arizona,” Sandweg said.

Up to Speed

Catch up on the latest news and stories on the 12News YouTube channel. Subscribe today.


Before You Leave, Check This Out