A new study from Oregon State University found a lack of regulated child care in Oregon. 

All of Oregon’s 36 counties were “child care deserts” — where there is only one child care slot for every three children who need care — for infants and toddlers ages 2 and under, according to the study. Only nine counties, including Multnomah County, are not deserts for preschoolers. 

“Child care supply continues to be an issue and has been an issue for a very long time,” said Megan Pratt, an OSU assistant professor and the study’s lead author. “A lot of that has to do with not being able to keep up with the growth of the population.”

The Oregon Child Care Research Partnership, the agency OSU created the study for, has been studying child care supply since the 1990s.

Along with being an issue in Oregon, child care deserts are also a nationwide phenomenon, Pratt said. 

She said the lacking quantity of child care is only part of the problem. 

“The availability of child care is one piece of the puzzle,” Pratt said, pointing to accessibility factors, such as cost and schedule. 

“If it’s inaccessible; if it’s offered at a time that parents need care because of employment or school schedules, it’s not addressing issues of quality to make sure it’s meeting the needs of the child and meeting the needs of the family,” Pratt said. 

The study found in 2018 the median annual price of care for a toddler in a child care center was more than $14,000.

“Those are additional considerations that are beyond this [report], but are really important to think about when you think about supply of care,” Pratt said.