Is childcare more expensive in Washington D.C. than anywhere else in U.S.? | VERIFY

A recent eye-catching report says D.C. far outpaces the rest of the country, but additional context shows a few other cities are just as pricy

VERIFY | Is childcare more expensive in Washington D.C. than anywhere else in U.S.?

Author: David Lippman, Sarah Fredrickson (WUSA)

Published: 11:28 PM EDT July 17, 2023

Updated: 8:06 AM EDT July 18, 2023

WASHINGTON D.C., DC — A recent report is causing a lot of local parents to shake their heads, in equal parts disbelief and agreement.

It says Washington D.C. has the most expensive childcare in the country by a wide margin.

It is not the first report to suggest that the cost of living is relatively high in the nation’s capital, but few other measures show such a large gap between prices in D.C. and anyplace else.


Is childcare in Washington D.C. more expensive than in any other place in the country?


Annie E. Casey Foundation

U.S. Department of Labor

Ruqiyyah Anbar-Shaheen


This needs context.

The method of comparison matters when determining where the cost of childcare in Washington D.C. ranks


The Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF) includes in the cost of childcare in its annual Kids Count Data Book. The 2023 edition showed that the cost for center-based toddler care in Washington D.C. is $24,396 per year. Number two on its list was Massachusetts, more than $4,000 cheaper.

But it is important to note that this report compares Washington D.C. to other states rather than other cities. 

Ruqiyyah Anbar-Shaheen, Director of Early Childhood Policy for the non-profit DC Action, explained that while measuring Washington D.C. along with the 50 states is common, it skews the data in cases like this because childcare in big cities usually costs more than in rural areas.

“When you look at cost drivers for child care,” she added, “it’s really staffing and physical space are two of the biggest ones. So if you’re hearing rent’s going to be high and we have the highest minimum wage, that already stacks up to be some of the highest costs.” 

When looking at the local level, the rankings are different. The Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau lists childcare prices by county and city. It does not inlclude information about Washington D.C. in its most recent dataset, but by using the data from AECF, Washington D.C. would have the sixth-most expensive childcare. Nearby Arlington County, Virginia comes in at number one with an annual cost of $27,220. A pair of counties near San Francisco and Boston also had higher childcare costs than Washington D.C. The city of Alexandria, Virginia and counties around New York City also had similar costs to D.C.