(WOWK) — We all know child care can be expensive, so which states pay the most and least for it?

LendingTree’s recent study determined which states have the highest and lowest child-care costs. The study found the cost can range from 12% to 28% of family income, depending on the state.

According to LendingTree, U.S. families spend an average of 17.8% of their income on child care. Families making the nation’s average weekly income of $1,650 will spend about $293 on child care.

LendingTree ranked each state plus Washington, D.C., from states with the most (No. 1) and least (No. 51) expensive child care.

In Kentucky, the study found $208 is the average amount spent weekly on child care, ranking the state at No. 39. With an average weekly family income of $1,347, this means 15.4% is the average percentage of income spent on child care.

LendingTree determined 50% of U.S. families report paying for child care. The number rises to 60% among parents ages 25 to 39.

The study found the most common child care option (22.1%) is through family, such as a grandparent or sibling. On the other hand, LendingTree said “8.6% of families say they put their child into a child care or daycare center.”

The number is even higher for those on active duty for the U.S. Army Reserves or National Guard or with a spouse serving. Those figures range from 69% to 84% of military parents who rely on family child care, according to the study.

In addition to costs, LendingTree analyzed the percentage of U.S. parents who use child care and pay for it. The study found 47% of Kentucky parents use child care and pay for it.

LendingTree noted there are pros and cons to both in-family and professional child care. In-family child care is convenient and helps save money. On the other hand, parents must ensure the family can manage challenges that a professional caregiver may better handle.

“If you’re fortunate enough to be able to rely on a relative for child care instead of paying a third party for child care, it can be nothing short of life-changing financially. Of course, it also comes with its own unique set of challenges. For example, you have to be certain that you can trust that family member to do a good job, and that’ll require some tough questions and frank conversations, to be sure. However, if you’re sure, it can be incredible. It doesn’t just save you money — it can create family bonds that last a lifetime.”

Matt Schulz, LendingTree Chief Credit Analyst

The financial company also noted child care access can be sparse in some areas, limiting parents’ options even when prices are not a problem.


LendingTree determined Nevada parents pay the highest percentage (27.8%) compared to weekly income. New Hampshire families pay the lowest percentage (11.6%) when compared to weekly income.

The study also found District of Columbia families have the highest percentage (78%) of families who pay for child care. New Mexico is the state with the lowest percentage (26%) of parents who use child care and pay for it.


LendingTree used U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey and American Community Survey data for this study. To view the full report, click here.

Camille Hantla contributed to this story.