A researcher who conducted a year-long study of child care in Iowa says more parents are struggling to pay for child care so they can keep working.

Lily French, a research associate with the Iowa Policy Project, says child care costs are going up at a pace that’s higher than the inflation rate. "In Iowa, the average annual cost of center-based infant care is $7360," French says. "This is actually 33 percent of the median income for single-mother families with children under 18 and, more importantly, is higher than the average tuition at Iowa’s Regent universities."

Since child care in Iowa is more expensive than sending a kid to college at Iowa, Iowa State or U.N.I., French and others at the Iowa Policy Project argue state policymakers should expand child care assistance to low-income working families. "We have found that child care assistance allows parents to work more hours, to sustain employment longer to earn higher wages and to rely less on other social programs, including welfare," she says.

According to French, the greatest return comes from analyzing how a child from a low-income family does after they’ve been in enrolled at a "quality" child care center. "These children have greater success in school. They have a reduced need for special education. They attain higher graduation rates, higher employment and earnings. They have better health outcomes and less welfare dependency lower crime rates," French says. "All of these positive outcomes from children actually result in reduced state spending and higher tax revenue over the course of these children’s lives."

According to French, her report will soon be posted on  the Iowa Policy Project website.