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Care Costs Are All Over the Map

DAY-CARE costs vary across the United States, with metropolitan areas in the Northeast generally having the highest rates compared with other areas of the country, according to an October 1992 study conducted by Runzheimer International, a management-consulting firm based in Rochester, Wis.

The study found Boston to be the city with the highest day-care costs. Following Boston are Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, and Manchester, N.H., among a list of 10 cities.

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One reason for the high rates in these cities is the generally higher cost of living compared with other areas, says Peter Packer, vice president of communications at Runzheimer International. "Everything in those places is more expensive - housing, goods and services, eating out in restaurants, and day care," Mr. Packer says.

According to the study, the 10 cities with the lowest day-care costs start with Jackson, Miss., and Salt Lake City. Those cities are followed by Casper, Wyo.; Mobile, Ala.; and Tucson, Ariz., among others.

The study found that in the Greater Boston area, the cost for a three-year-old child to stay in a for-profit day-care center averaged $122 per week. In Greater Minneapolis, it was $120 per week, and in New York City the cost was $118. The same service costs $46 in Jackson; $46 in Salt Lake City; $47 in Casper; $49 in Mobile; and $50 in Tucson, according to the study.

Types of child care also vary around the country. The Midwest has more family-day-care homes, while the South has a greater supply of day-care centers, according to Caroline Eichman, research director for Child Care Action Campaign in New York. Rural communities have fewer center-based facilities than do urban areas, she says.

Ms. Eichman also notes an overall shortage of infant and toddler care as well as care for disabled children in all parts of the country. These special forms of care are "a very expensive service to supply because you need more teachers for the children," she says. "You can't have one teacher caring for 10 infants at the same time. The demand is there. But the centers are uncertain if parents would pay the cost of this service, which would be quite high."

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