Massachusetts Ranks #1 in Education But Accessible, High-Quality Child Care Remains Out of Reach for Many Families


Massachusetts ranks first in education and child health and well-being, according to the "2023 KIDS COUNT Data Book," a 50-state report of recent household data developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation analyzing how children and families are faring. 

However, our country’s lack of affordable and accessible childcare short-changes children.  It causes parents in Massachusetts to frequently miss work or even quit their jobs, while those who can find care are paying dearly for it.  These childcare challenges cost the American economy billions of dollars yearly and stymie women professionally. 

As has been true for many years, Massachusetts ranks highly in the data book's education and health domains.  With a robust, comprehensive Medicaid system (MassHealth) and steadily increasing, equity-focused financial support for elementary and secondary schools (due to the 2019 Student Opportunity Act), Massachusetts provides policy models many states aspire to. Unfortunately, the cost of living in Massachusetts can make it difficult for families to thrive.

Thirty percent of children in the Commonwealth live in households cost-burdened by housing. Bay Staters looking to start families are forced to reckon with the most expensive child care of any state in the country. 

“While these data show that children in Massachusetts fare better than they do in other states, they also demonstrate unmet need and serious hardship for many families, especially when it comes to accessing affordable, high-quality child care,” said Marie-Frances Rivera, President of MassBudget, home to KIDS COUNT in Massachusetts. “For the past 20 years, Massachusetts has made innovations in health care and public education that have made us national leaders in these areas. Now we need to lead the nation in addressing the childcare affordability crisis. Because every kid in the Commonwealth deserves a great start and every child care worker deserves a fair wage.”   

The Data Book reports that too many parents cannot secure child care compatible with work schedules and commutes. The Data Book reports that in 2020—21, 12% of Massachusetts children under age 6 lived in families where someone quit, changed, or refused a job because of problems with child care. And women are five to eight times more likely than men to experience negative employment consequences related to caregiving.

While the cost of care burdens families, childcare workers are paid worse than 98% of professions. Median national pay for childcare workers was $28,520 per year or $13.71 an hour in 2022, less than the wage for retail ($14.26) and customer service ($18.16) workers.          

According to one study, the failings of the childcare market also affect the current and future health of the American economy, costing $122 billion a year in lost earnings, productivity, and tax revenue. These challenges put parents under tremendous stress to meet the dual responsibilities of providing for their families and ensuring their children are safe and nurtured.

Each year, the Data Book presents national and state data from 16 indicators in four domains—economic well-being, education, health, and family and community factors — and ranks the states according to how children are faring.

Transitioning from a faltering childcare system to a flourishing one will take new thinking and investing at the local, state, and national levels. An executive order issued by President Biden in April is aimed at expanding access, lowering costs, and raising wages. It could prove to be a helpful framework, but more is needed:

  • Federal, state, and local governments should invest more in child care. State and local governments should maximize remaining pandemic recovery act dollars to fund needed child care services and capacity. The Massachusetts legislature should continue to fully fund C3 provider grants, which ensure that licensed childcare programs across the state can continue operating. 
  • Public and private leaders should work together to improve the infrastructure for home-based child care by lowering the barriers to entry for potential providers by increasing access to start-up and expansion capital.
  • To help young parents, Congress should expand the federal Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) program, which serves student parents. 


child care, massachusetts, national quality framework, child and family services, annie e. casey foundation, commonwealth day, marie-frances rivera, massachusetts legislature, massbudget, child care services, bay staters