The costs of child care are even more extreme for younger mothers. The average age when mother’s first give birth in the United States is 25.7 years, meaning that half of new mothers are under the age of 26 when they have their first child. Not surprisingly, younger mothers tend to have lower incomes: By virtue of their age, they have less job tenure and are more likely than older mothers to still be completing their education. But this means that mothers under age 25 with a young child who are paying for child care end up spending a staggering one-third—33 percent—of their income on care because they typically earn less. (see Table 1) It is critical that these women have the opportunity to finish their education and gain job experience, but child care expenses can make that a daunting prospect.
We shouldn’t forget that affordable high-quality child care is also essential to parents’ abilities to balance work success with family responsibilities—a goal that every parent deserves to easily achieve. President Obama’s preschool and child care plan will strengthen families and make them more economically secure while also reducing inequality and improving educational achievement in this country.
Many agricultural communities highly value sibling- and peer- caretaking. Accounts from the Idakho tribe in Kenya portray infants being left to the care and guidance of other relatively young children in the community with adults and other tribe members merely within shouting distance should a problem arise. The same pattern of caregiving is seen in the Kikuyu people in Kenya, where mothers in the horticultural society are often away working, which relies on siblings, cousins, and neighbors to care for children as young as 4 months old.