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Family Life and Childcare for Expats in the United States Of America

Author: Jason Zhou
Submitted: October 2013

Family life in US

The US is a large country with a population of 316,783,000 as of 1st January 2013. Due to its popularity as an expatriate destination many people from all over the world migrate to the US for various reasons and as expected it has many different religions and family lifestyles.

Generally speaking, the most popular family style is a nuclear family which consists of a mother, a father and children. Often most of the couple are employed and they drive to work. However, such family structure has become less prevalent. The percentage of single parent families in the US has increased significantly in the last three decades. 

Even in a typical nuclear family, roles of the father and mother have changed. Many mothers go out to work and have complete control of the family’s finances while many fathers, on the other hand, choose to stay at home to look after the family and home.

About 80% of US residents live in houses out of cities or towns. Some of them live in flats or apartments in high rise units, although this tends to be seen more in large cities.  


Childcare in the US

There are many types of childcare service providers in the US such as nannies, babysitters, day care centers, kindergartens, nurseries and preschools. These are all under the government’s administration and supervision. Most of kindergartens, nurseries and preschools can offer various courses such as arts and crafts, music, educational games, perceptual motor activities and listening skills.

Childcare in the US can be very expensive, especially if your child is a baby or toddler. It is not rare for one parent to stay at home or change to part time work in order to look after their children rather than having a full time job and leaving their children with others.  Other family members also play a very important role in childcare. According to the US Census Bureau half of the pre-school children in 2011 were regularly cared for by other members of their family such as, grandparents, siblings or other relatives.

According to the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (NACCRRA), the average nationwide cost for a child in centre-based day care is about $1,000 per month. The costs of childcare services differ depending on what is required with baby and toddler care being considered the most expensive.  The average costs range between $3,000 and $20,000 per year. For infant care, the cost can be as high as $2,000 per month.

Childcare costs also depend on where you live as prices vary between different cities and states. It is comparably more expensive in Massachusetts, New York, Minnesota, Colorado, California, Illinois, Washington and Wisconsin than in Mississippi, Kentucky and South Carolina. For example, day care costs for a child from a middle class family in New York are generally around $25,000 to $30,000 per year. This is quite high compared with the annual cost of $5,850 in South Carolina. Other childcare services are also expensive. For example, the hourly rate of a nanny is between $9 and $18.

Children over five years old can attend pre-schools including non-profit co-operative schools, church-affiliated schools, local community schools, private schools and Montessori schools. Sometimes, children over three years old can be accepted. More information about different pre-schools can be found here: https://www.justlanded.com/english/USA/USA-Guide/Education/Pre-school-education.

If you are moving to the US and looking for a childcare provider, you can contact your local government for help.  The federal government also provides a website where you can find all sorts of information you may need, such as how to find a quality childcare provider and tips to choose a good nursery, help with payments and health and safety information. Useful websites are listed here:



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