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Having a baby in New York or DC? Maybe don't look at this map.

Making ends meet is at the top of mind for every new parent, and it turns out that the state you live in has something to do with the cost of child care from the very start of an infant's life. Child Care Aware compared the cost of sending a kid to an accredited child care center with local median household incomes from the Census Bureau, and as you can see, there's a difference in costs depending on state and region:

A few takeaways from this data:

1) Cities are more expensive

Infant child care costs seem to be significantly higher in big cities than in small ones or rural areas. That's why the District of Columbia is such an outlier, and why it's followed in the rankings by highly urbanized New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.

2) Poor states have cheaper labor

An interesting story here is that child care is more affordable in poor states like Alabama and Arkansas than in richer ones like Maryland or New Hampshire. Income plays a foundational part in making ends meet, and poverty exists in every state, but in general things are simply cheaper in poorer places. Child Care Aware used an affordability metric to compare apples to apples: local incomes divided by local child care costs.

Poorer states like Alabama are more affordable even when you factor in the relatively low median income, highlighting that child care is a fundamentally labor-intensive process. Labor-intensive processes are lot cheaper in poorer places, where the workforce is cheaper.

3) For some families, a stay-at-home parent may make more financial sense

A 2014 Pew survey by Drew DeSilver linked rising child care costs to a trend toward an increase in the number of stay-at-home mothers. For some families — especially those with multiple children where both parents work — child care costs aren't worth it. That's especially true since you need to pay taxes on market income, whereas a stay-at-home parent's household labor is untaxed.

4) There are alternatives, but buyer beware

For lower-income households, infant child care outside of the home simply isn't an affordable option, but having a stay-at-home parent generally isn't an option, either. The world of lower-quality child care is often informal arrangements with a rotating pool of unlicensed family members and neighborhood acquaintances. Such arrangements are stressful for parents and can be mildly deleterious to children's intellectual and emotional development, with negative impacts detectable into adolescence.

Further reading:

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