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The Economic Impact of the Child Care Industry in North Carolina

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The child care industry in North Carolina encompasses a range of programs designed to nurture, support, enrich, and educate children from birth through age 12 outside of traditional K-12 education. Licensed center-based care, family child care homes, before- and after-school, public pre-schools, and Head Start child development centers are all considered part of the child care industry.

The industry has two main functions, both of which have changed significantly over time, and both of which link the industry to the economy. Child care's first major function is to enable parents to work outside the home and take advantage of educational opportunities which further their careers. The other major function of the child care industry is to provide developmentally appropriate learning opportunities for children.

As a result of the shifts in these two main functions, the role of the child care industry in the economy has also been transformed. The industry in North Carolina now has the capacity to serve 337,000 children at any one time, nearly one-quarter of the total population of children from birth through age 12. The annual average consumer price for center-based care for a three-year-old is nearly $5,000 in rural counties and $7,000 in urban counties. These trends establish the child care industry as a significant component of the economic infrastructure of the state. The industry is a driver of the economy, providing financial benefits in three main ways.