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Eastern Mass. has some of the highest child care costs in the US

Kiddies Corner Assistant Director Akayla Shelton tries to convince a day-care-attendee to take a nap on Feb. 12, 2021.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

As Governor Maura Healey settles into the top job in the state’s government, a new report details an uphill battle for one of her key priorities: The high cost of child care.

Data from the Department of Labor show parents in two Massachusetts counties pay the third-highest child care prices in the nation. The annual cost of infant center-based child care in Middlesex and Norfolk counties was more than $26,000, according to the data, eating up nearly 20 percent of median family budgets. Only parents in Arlington County in Virginia and San Francisco County in California paid higher sums.

Though Middlesex and Norfolk topped the list, Suffolk and Essex counties also ranked in the top 20 for infant child care costs, and all 14 Mass. counties appeared in the top 100 among more than 2,800 counties nationwide for which data were available.


In Suffolk County, families paid nearly 30 percent of combined income on child care.

In her inaugural speech earlier this month, Healey called the state of child care in Massachusetts a “crisis” and called on the state to be the first in the nation to fix it. In a statement to the Globe last week, a spokeswoman said Healey would work with the Legislature on a solution.

“This report confirms what we’ve know for too long — the cost of child care is out of reach for too many families, especially here in Massachusetts. The Governor is committed to working with the Legislature to make early education and care more affordable and accessible and support our workforce,” Karissa Hand, a spokesperson for Healey, said.

Driven largely by a shrinking number of open child care slots and shortages of staff who are often paid very low wages, findings from the Labor Department report suggest that the costs are exacerbating the worker shortage currently being felt across the economy. In counties with high child care costs, there were fewer women in the workforce, the report found, even when accounting for the higher wages typical of places with a steep cost of living.


“All across the country, families are facing burdensome childcare expenses. The last few years have highlighted the tension parents experience when they need to go to work to provide for their families, but have difficulty doing so if they can’t access affordable child care,” Labor Department Women’s Bureau Director Wendy Chun-Hoon said in a press release.

The report is based on results of market rate surveys submitted by states and adjusted for inflation to reflect 2022 dollars. Massachusetts submitted its data by region, according to a Department of Labor spokesperson.

Christina Prignano can be reached at Follow her @cprignano.