Which costs more: Child care or college?

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NEW YORK — It’s no secret that child care is expensive.

But new numbers show just how deeply it can eat into a family budget — in many cases, even deeper than what may spend on college.

The average cost of childcare is at least a quarter of the median income of single parents, according to a report Thursday from Child Care Aware, a group that provides resources to parents and caregivers.

And families at the poverty line, can spend as much as 85% of their income on care.

Parents in Massachusetts are spending more on childcare than in any other state. On average, Bay State families are paying $16,549 per year to send an infant to a center for care. That’s about 15% of the median income for a two-parent family.

New York families pay a higher proportion of their incomes than in any other states, or about 16%.

The best bargain for child care? That would be in Louisiana, where it costs only about 7% of the median income.

The high costs don’t pay off all the time. Three in 10 parents either missed work or were late getting to their jobs last year because of care-related problems, the study found. Child care issues cost businesses about $3 billion every year.

On the bright side: when the bill for college tuition arrives years later, it might not seem so steep in comparison.

Child Care Aware said that in 30 states, the annual cost of child care is higher than tuition and fees at the state’s four-year state colleges.

It concluded the multiple government programs to make care more affordable have significant room for improvement.

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