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Day care: You get what you pay for

As a father of a 2-1/2 year old and the husband of a professional woman who now works at home taking care of our son, I found disturbing the travails of finding high-quality day care (''Who'll Look After Little Clara?'' March 27). In short, most couples who want ''high quality'' day care are simply too cheap to pay for it.

In the Washington metropolitan area, a very expensive region, day care for young children is available at rates as low as $75 a week, or $3,750 a year for 50 weeks. Keep in mind that if a caregiver has three infants at that rate, that comes only to $5.60 an hour. This is basically the same wage that fast-food workers in this area earn.

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According to the article, high-quality care in an expensive city can cost $8,450 a year. This is just 2-1/4 times as expensive as bottom-rate care.

Compare that with something else most families require: cars. An inexpensive new car today costs around $12,000. However, there are high-quality automobiles for sale for at least $60,000, five times the price of the cheaper cars. Note that there is no shortage of Mercedes, BMWs, and Cadillacs.

The difference between the prices of basic and high-quality child care is small. If two-parent families were willing to pay five times as much for high-quality day care as for basic care, around $18,750 a year, there would be no shortage of this care. That might seem like a lot, but my wife earned $30,000 a year before our son was born.

Brian F. Bieron, Alexandria, Va.

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