The nearly 8 million working women who paid for child care in 1988 spent $21 billion at widely varying rates--ranging from 99 cents an hour for care by relatives to $1.91 for organized facilities and $2.61 for care by non-relatives in the child's home, a Census Bureau study showed Tuesday.
Overall, families paying for child care spent an average of $54 per week in 1988 compared with $40 per week three years earlier. Only $5.50 of the increase was attributable to inflation, the census report said.
Women in poverty paid a higher proportion of their monthly incomes on child care--21%, compared with 7% for women living in families above the poverty line.
The census survey also showed that working parents are turning increasingly to day-care centers, instead of relatives, to care for their children. In 1988, 26% of the 9.5 million children under the age of 5 whose mothers worked were cared for in organized child-care facilities, contrasted with 13% in 1977.
Economic changes are partly responsible, said Barbara Otto, a spokeswoman for 9 to 5, National Assn. of Working Women in Cleveland.
"It's a two-wage earner economy and many people are recognizing that they can't rely on relatives," she told the Associated Press. "We're a transient society now and we go where the jobs are and often we don't have relatives nearby to help out."
Child-care arrangements seem to depend on the age of the child, the survey found. While 26% of preschool children spent time in organized facilities, 76% of older children spent most of their time in school while their mothers were at work.
About 68% of families with preschool children in which the mother works pay for child care, said Martin O'Connell, co-author of the study. That means a huge number of families are making other arrangements, he noted.
"In most cases, it will probably be the fathers taking care of them, or other relatives," O'Connell said.
The survey found that preschool children were far more likely to be cared for by their parents at home if their parents worked different shifts. In such cases, fathers often were the primary care-givers when mothers were at work.
"Because of the enormous expense of day care, people have had to become more creative about what kind of arrangements they can make and fathers and mothers often work at different times," said Shelley Gates, associate director of Women Employed, a Chicago-based association of working women.
"It's a hardship on them because they don't see much of each other. But it's one way of maintaining the lifestyle they want while still having kids," she told the Associated Press.
Of the 19 million employed women with children under 15, 40%, or about 7.6 million, reported that they paid for child care.