Child Care and its Impact on Orange County’s Economy

Addressing the Child Care Crisis Is Critical for All

Orange County’s child care industry is the workforce behind the workforce

Child care is critical for working parents and the economy. While the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the challenges related to child care (and shined a light on its importance) the challenges are not new.

a dad puts a surgical mask on his young daughter

“COVID has exposed the needs for child care amongst working parents and family members”

Snyder Langston
Orange County Employer

Following the release of the Child Care Landscape Analysis in October 2020, First 5 Orange County invested in a second phase to inform action.

  • Data was collected both pre- and during the pandemic
  • Default data is not COVID-specific unless otherwise stated

Child Care Landscape Analysis

Data Analysis on the Supply of Child Care in OC. In-depth interviews with 20+ child care experts.

Economic Analysis

Conducted by Dr. Wallace Walrod, TCCG, LLC. Utilizes Emsi (Economic Modeling Specialists International) and U.S. Chamber of Commerce data.

Family Perspective

Survey completed by more than 1,220 parents/guardians (in English & Spanish). In-depth interviews with 21 parents representing a broad cross section of Orange County.

Employer Perspective

52 Orange County employers provided input, representing over 71,000 employees. In-depth Interviews + employer survey.

Long before the pandemic, First 5 Orange County and other local, state and national leaders were calling for change and improvements, and were citing child care’s impact on the economy.

Ready Nation’s January 19 report, Want to Grow the Economy? Fix the Child Care Crisis, was a call to action for policy makers.

Want to Grow the Economy? Fix the Child Care Crisis.

In Orange County, the impact of child care-related challenges — to the overall economy, families and employers — is significant.1

Orange County Impacts


billion lost productivity and wages annually


million lost tax revenue annually


lost jobs annually due to disruptions or gaps in child care

Child care problems affect working parents and guardians in a number of ways


1 in 5 arrive late to work

due to gaps in child care


1 in 6 have to leave work early

on a regular basis


1 in 10 choose to resign or lose their jobs

due to child care challenges


1 in 11 are forced to reduce their hours

or are not able to go into full-time positions

close up on a man's and baby's hands on a computer keyboard

This is hard for employers and working parents and guardians.

a busy working mom with her three young kids

“I am a single mother of 3 and work from about 9 to 6 Tuesday through Saturday. My children’s daycare is only open Monday through Friday so my mom has to watch them on Saturdays…I have to leave early a lot because my kids cannot stay past 6…If I could find child care with more flexible hours, I would look for a better position.”

Orange County Parent

“If we could double, triple, quadruple child care capacity, demand is that much greater than supply…the need is great for both students and faculty/staff.”

Cal State University, Fullerton
Orange County Employer

California State University Fullerton
dad walking daughter to preschool

It’s even harder in Orange County where the cost of living is so high that the majority of families with young children rely on all parents/caregivers to work.

% of young children in Orange County with all parents working2

Many parents and guardians don’t work or sacrifice due to the cost of child care.

“It is not worth working just to pay for child care, so our family chose for me to quit my job and care for our children myself.”

“Most of my income pays for child care — it doesn’t make much sense but I am working so that when they are older and don’t need child care, I have a job.”

“I can not work because child care is too expensive.”

The high price of child care does not mean providers are earning healthy profits.3

a preschool teacher reads a book to young children sitting on the carpet

Child care providers are small businesses themselves, and are often struggling


Costs to deliver quality care are high, especially for infants and toddlers

Low child/caregiver ratios and supplies needed for infant/toddler care drive up costs


COVID-related requirements have further increased providers' costs


While there has been a significant effort to support them through CAREs Act funding and forgivable PPP loans, many child care providers are still struggling

“We are looking at where we can do cutbacks with all the extra costs related to COVID. We are cutting extracurricular activities with vendors because we can’t have visitors anyway and looking at restructuring staffing needs to find ways to not be in the red. Eventually we are going to have to reduce staff and raise tuition because we are just way off budget. Lots of cuts are needed – especially with minimum wage going up.”

Orange County Child Care Provider

Quality Child Care Is Critical for Child Development

The quality of a child’s experiences (including child care) affect how the brain develops … so we must address child care challenges for children, working parents, our region’s economy and society as a whole.

% of a child’s brain that develops before age 54

Families, employers, and the child care sector itself are calling for change. Let’s explore parent, guardian and employer perspectives…