(WOWK) — We all know childcare can be expensive, so which states pay the most and least for it?

LendingTree did a recent study to determine which states have the highest and lowest childcare costs. The study found that childcare costs can range from 12% to 28% of family income, depending on the state.

According to LendingTree, United States families spend an average of 17.8% of their income on childcare. Families making the nation’s average weekly income of $1,650 will spend about $293 of that paycheck on childcare.

LendingTree ranked each state plus Washington, D.C., from states with the most (No. 1) and least (No. 51) expensive childcare. Below is data for the Tri-State region of West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio.

Rank/stateAverage amount spent weekly on childcareAverage weekly family income% of income spent on childcare
No. 22: West Virginia$223$1,28217.4%
No. 30: Ohio$251$1,55316.2%
No. 39: Kentucky$208$1,34715.4%
(Data from a LendingTree study)

LendingTree determined that 50% of U.S. families report paying for childcare. The number rises to 60% among parents ages 25 to 39.

The study found the most common childcare option (22.1%) is through family, such as a grandparent or sibling. On the other hand, LendingTree says “8.6% of families say they put their child into a childcare or daycare center.”

The number is even higher for those on active duty for the U.S. Army Reserves or National Guard, or with a spouse serving. Those figures range from 69% to 84% of military parents who rely on family childcare, according to the study.

In addition to costs, LendingTree analyzed the percentage of U.S. parents who use childcare and pay for it. The study found there is a higher percentage of Kentucky parents that pay for childcare than in West Virginia and Ohio. West Virginia is the second-lowest state with parents who use childcare and pay for it, according to LendingTree.

Rank/state% who use childcare and pay for it
No. 36: Kentucky47%
No. 42: Ohio44%
No. 50: West Virginia29%
(Data from a LendingTree study)

LendingTree noted there are pros and cons to both in-family and professional childcare. On one hand, in-family childcare is convenient and helps save money. On the other hand, parents must ensure family can manage challenges that a professional caregiver may better handle.

“If you’re fortunate enough to be able to rely on a relative for child care instead of paying a third party for child care, it can be nothing short of life-changing financially. Of course, it also comes with its own unique set of challenges. For example, you have to be certain that you can trust that family member to do a good job, and that’ll require some tough questions and frank conversations, to be sure. However, if you’re sure, it can be incredible. It doesn’t just save you money — it can create family bonds that last a lifetime.”

Matt Schulz, LendingTree Chief Credit Analyst

The financial company also noted childcare access can be sparse in some areas, limiting parents’ options even when prices are not a problem. This can be a factor in some rural areas, such as certain portions of West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio.


LendingTree determined Nevada parents pay the highest percentage (27.8%) in comparison to weekly income. New Hampshire families pay the lowest percentage (11.6%) when compared to weekly income.

The study also found District of Columbia families have the highest percentage (78%) of families that pay for childcare. New Mexico is the state with the lowest percentage (26%) of parents who use childcare and pay for it.


LendingTree used U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey and American Community Survey data for this study. To view the full report, click here.