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Forget Gas Prices, Let's Talk About Babysitter Inflation

Parents are reporting that babysitters are harder to find — and that's causing hourly rates to skyrocket.

Young mother and little daughter in purple costumes using mobile phone at home
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It’s not your imagination: babysitter rates are going up and it’s harder to find them at all.

According to a March 2022 report from UrbanSitter, rates increased 11% in 2021 — and things have probably gotten a bit worse since then.

While demands for babysitting dropped by 85% during the height of the pandemic, when everyone was shut in their houses with their families, things have picked up quickly since vaccinations began and parents are now desperate for a break from relentless childcare and stress.

At the same time, labor shortages mean that even inexperienced teens can score high-paying jobs at fast food joints and retail outlets, leaving fewer people willing to wipe the noses and butts of children — unless they get prime compensation.

And on top of that, a wave of extremely qualified early educators, teachers, and caregivers have left their traditional careers and began working for themselves, flooding the market with more experienced but also more expensive options for parents looking for in-home help.

“Over the past two years [we’ve seen] a big increase in nurses, teachers [and] early childhood education specialists leaving those roles,” Lynn Perkins, chief executive officer of UrbanSitter, told Today. “As they’re coming into the child care field and working for families one on one, they’re able to charge a much higher rate because they’re bringing this set of skills with them.”

Obviously, the vast majority of parents want to pay a fair wage, and understand that sitters are providing them with a tough and vital service. But many parents, already facing financial strain from inflation, raising rents, and other costs, are hard pressed to find a sitter that they can sensibly afford.

“I’m actually excited to see that people who are filling these care provider roles are getting paid the wage that they deserve,” continued Perkins. “Where I think we have a disconnect is that we’re hitting a spot where families can’t afford this care.”

Here are the numbers:

The average national hourly rate for babysitting one kid is now $20.57, according to UrbanSitter. The average is $23.25 an hour for two kids and $24.35 an hour for three.

Things are even worst in costal metro areas. New York City has the highest average rates at $23.45 an hour for one child, followed by the San Francisco Bay area at $23.32 and Seattle at $21.23.

Care.com says the hourly rate nationally has gone from $14.72 pre-pandemic to $18.00 in April 2022.

On their end, babysitters are reporting being treated like a precious resource by parents.

“They just thank me profusely, so much that I’m like, ‘Oh, my God, I was literally only here for three hours,’ ” 18-year-old Dani Gantcher told The Wall Street Journal. “The power dynamics have shifted between the teenage babysitter and the parent.”

She’s making $25 or $30 an hour when she was making $15 an hour pre-pandemic.

“It used to be you walked in and were all shy and saying thank you so much and feeling grateful to get a little spending money,” agrees 19-year-old college student Emma Sharkansky, who also talked to WSJ. “Now, I’m walking in and they’re thanking me more than I could possibly thank them.”

She used to make $12 an hour, but now she makes $30. And she’s asked to do less at work. “Parents don’t ask anything above the bare minimum anymore,” she said.

Rates rise from word-of-mouth, according to WSJ, as teens talk about what they make, but there’s also babysitter poaching taking place as people with more means steal sitters from those who can’t afford to offer more.

Younger sitters are now in more demand, too, and even middle school kids are making $15 or more an hour.

And sitting comes with more perks for everyone now. Not only are parents not asking sitters to do extra tasks like wash dishes or engage their kids in games, they’re also offering DoorDash dinners and more — anything to keep sitters coming back.

It’s a new world out there, and one that will have to balance paying child care providers what they need with giving parents affordable options.

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