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New Study Finds Child Care Costs in Oklahoma Have Risen Sharply

The Oklahoma Partnership for School Readiness (OPSR) has released a new report highlighting a significant increase in the cost of child care in Oklahoma. The study, conducted by the RAND Corporation, reveals a substantial rise in child care expenses compared to data collected in 2019.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Child Care mandates periodic market rate surveys to determine the true cost of quality child care. OPSR's report, a collaboration with RAND Corporation, will influence child care subsidy rates under the Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) for low-income families. This update builds upon a previous report issued at the onset of the pandemic, marking OPSR's continued commitment to understanding and addressing the evolving challenges in child care provision.

The comprehensive study, spanning 143 pages, investigated key aspects including:

  1. The estimated per-child cost of early childhood care and education (ECCE) for infants, toddlers, and preschool-aged children.

  2. Fundamental cost drivers for ECCE in Oklahoma.

  3. Experiences of ECCE providers during the pandemic.

  4. Child care enrollment numbers and post-pandemic service costs.

Among the surveyed child care programs, infant care averaged around $16,500 annually, approximately double the cost for preschool-aged children. These findings underscore the financial strain faced by many families and highlight the urgent need for intervention.

Carrie Williams, executive director of OPSR, emphasized the alarming implications of the study's findings, stating, "The cost of child care services is out of reach for many working families, forcing parents to quit, decline, or change jobs. Investing in early childhood care and education today is essential for Oklahoma's future economic prosperity."

In addition to soaring costs, Oklahoma is experiencing a decline in available child care openings, with 55% of the population residing in areas designated as child care deserts. Williams attributed this trend to the combination of low wages for child care workers and escalating operational expenses, painting a concerning picture for the state's child care landscape.

As COVID-19 relief measures wind down, child care providers face the looming challenge of balancing costs against dwindling revenues. Williams warned of a potential surge in child care closures unless decisive action is taken.

Addressing these challenges demands a concerted effort from various stakeholders, including state lawmakers, businesses, nonprofits, and higher education institutions.

Williams concluded by stressing the critical role of child care as economic infrastructure, urging prioritized investment to sustain Oklahoma's economic vitality.

Download the file to read the full report:

Download PDF • 1.82MB

To view information from RAND and the report on their website, visit this link.

About OPSR:

OPSR was created to help Oklahoma families access the early care and education, family support, and health and mental health services they need to support their children during their most critical period of development from birth through age five. OPSR facilitates collaborative planning and decision-making to increase coordination between programs, to maximize the use of public and private funding, and pursue policies that improve learning opportunities and environments for Oklahoma. To learn more visit

About RAND:

RAND is a nonpartisan, nonprofit research organization that develops solutions to public policy challenges to help make communities throughout the world safer and more secure, healthier, and more prosperous.


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