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Who is missing work due to childcare issues?

A record number of workers are missing work due to childcare issues. What does it really mean?

Nearly three years into the COVID-19 pandemic, working parents are still struggling with a lack of childcare. According to the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, around 104,000 Americans in October 2022 reported childcare problems as their main reason for missing work the previous week. Here are the workers hardest hit by childcare problems.

The number of people missing work for childcare reasons peaked at 104,000 in October 2022. It fell to 59,000 in November.

Absent for childcare reasons

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While both men and women report work absences due to childcare issues, women accounted for 82% of all childcare-related absences in November 2022. (The detailed data is noisy, so these charts display 12-month moving averages.) This data shows that women have consistently been a much larger proportion of work absences due to lack of childcare. Between January 2000 and November 2022, women accounted for 85% of all childcare absences reported by parents.

Mothers are more than four times as likely as fathers to miss work due to childcare.

All parents

Male

Female

/Childcare absences per 100K0100200200020052010201520202022

This chart shows 12-month moving averages.

Childcare needs are greater for families with children under the age of 5 — and especially for those with children younger than 2. Parents with children under 5 are about twice as likely to miss work for childcare reasons as people with older kids.

Parents of young kids are the most likely to miss work for childcare reasons.

All parents

Parents with children 5 or under

Parents with children over 5

/Childcare absences per 100K0100200200020052010201520202022

This chart shows 12-month moving averages.

For most of the last 20 years, parents with one child have had childcare-related absences at about the same rate as parents with multiple children. But in October and November, childcare issues caused parents of multiple children to miss work at higher rates.

Parents with multiple children have recently been more likely to miss work due to childcare.

All parents

Parents with 1 child

Parents with 2 or more children

/Childcare absences per 100K050100200020052010201520202022

This chart shows 12-month moving averages.

Before the pandemic, there was little difference between college graduates and those who did not complete college in terms of who is more likely to be absent due to childcare.

Parents who did not finish college and college graduates missed work for childcare reasons at similar rates until the pandemic.

All parents

With college degree

Without college degree

/Childcare absences per 100K050100200020052010201520202022

This chart shows 12-month moving averages.

While childcare-related absences are higher than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic, they remain uncommon: about 1 in 700 parents were absent from a full workweek in October 2022. People were much more likely to miss work for vacation or illness.

Parents are much more likely to say they missed work because of their own illnesses than because of childcare problems.

Own illness

Childcare

/Absences per 100K09501,900200020052010201520202022

The higher percentages of parents missing work this winter also mask another trend: 80% of parents with children under 18 are working. Only four other months in the last 22 years had higher parental employment rates.

Slightly more than 80% of parents were employed in November 2022.

Parents

Everyone age 16-64

/Percent employed04080200020052010201520202022

For more on this issue, read this article on how childcare costs have grown over the past decade. Plus, the government provides various credits and vouchers for childcare. Learn more here.

Sources & Footnotes