Babysitters' wages see big gains

Rates are surging to as much as $18 an hour, far outrunning inflation over the past few decades.

By Aimee Picchi Aug 12, 2013 1:01PM

Image: Boy hiding eyes (© Ned Frisk Photography/Corbis)As fast-food workers from McDonald's (MCD) and other chains stage walkouts to protest for higher wages, they might want to turn their attention to another of America's entry-level jobs: the humble babysitter. 

While pay for most Americans has stalled, babysitters have seen their wages rise at a rate nine times faster than inflation since the early 1980s, the Boston Globe reports, citing data from the Labor Department.

The average rate for babysitters is now about $12 per hour, while fast-food workers earn anywhere from the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour to $9 an hour. In fact, babysitters make more than health care aides or retail workers, the Globe noted. 

Babysitters command the highest hourly rates in San Francisco, where a family with three children shells out more than $18 per hour. Philadelphia is a relative bargain at slightly less than $12 per hour, while New York City parents can pay from about $13 per hour to more than $16, depending on the number of kids. (Of course, San Francisco and New York rank among the costliest cities to live in and have high-income residents from the tech and finance worlds.)

What's behind the rise in babysitting wages? Parents now expect more experienced sitters, and they seek those with early-education degrees or language skills, such as fluency in Mandarin, the story notes. 

"College students, child development majors, nursing students come with a premium and the understanding that the sitter will be very engaged with the child," Lynn Perkins, the chief executive of UrbanSitter, told the Globe. 

While sitters are better off these days, the surging rates are causing anxiety in parents. One blog post at A Child Grows asks: "Are you paying your babysitter enough?" And a 2012 survey of parents in Brooklyn's Park Slope neighborhood found that date night costs an average of $158.

That's causing some parents to cut back on going out. 

"They're so expensive you can't really afford them," Heather Walker, a mother of two, told the Globe about hiring sitters. "My husband and I have been on about five dates in five years."

Follow Aimee Picchi on Twitter at @aimeepicchi.

Aug 12, 2013 3:27PM
Way back in the Stone Age (1960's) I babysat for $0.50 - fifty cents an hour.  One of my families had two sets of twins and 7 children.  When I started they had 7 children under the age of 7.  Of course for fifty cents, I only kept the children alive, there was no housekeeping or story
Aug 12, 2013 3:28PM
$18.00 an hour and most of the time it's tax FREE!!!!!
Aug 12, 2013 4:44PM
"rate for babysitters is now about $12 per hour, while fast-food workers anywhere from the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour to $9 an hour."

Considering babysitting is part time and irregular without any kind of benefits, exactly what point is it these geniuses are trying to make.
Aug 12, 2013 3:46PM
main thing, the person is trustworthy.
Aug 12, 2013 4:17PM
That's pretty ridiculous, but if you want someone with a degree to watch your kids, I guess you're ok paying that amount.  Your average high school student shouldn't be expecting that much, but after reading this article, they will probably try.
Aug 12, 2013 5:28PM

What happened to having a teenager watch your kids for a few hours to go watch a movie?   I don't need a college student who speaks Mandarin for that -

Daycare and preschool - maybe a nanny - but that is way different than a sitter once a month for a date night with my husband!   I can still get a high school kid to watch my two kids for the night for $20.00.

Aug 12, 2013 4:46PM
$18/hr per kid?!?  I was a nanny for 6 years (lived in my own home, wasn't live in), worked 40 hours a week taking care of 3 children and I didn't make anywhere near that!  And I can guarantee that most of these people are not "engaging with the child".  They are there from 7pm-12am-ish when the parents want to have a date night, which means the kids are in bed by 8 most likely.  So it's like others say, they're there to make sure the kid is still breathing when the parents get home, and be there to call if there's any issues.  These teens now must be geniuses to be able to dupe all these parents into paying that much!
Aug 12, 2013 4:46PM
I think there is a difference in "babysitting" which I assume means watching the children or dogs while a couple or whoever goes out for the evening, than day care.  I understand day careproviders do much more than "watch the children for the evening, especially when the children are either sleeping or going to sleep around 8pm and should be paid more, but this babysitting is totally out of hand. $5. for a teenager to watch the children is plenty not everyone makes $100,000 a year or more. Raising another generation of greedy kids and young adults.
Aug 12, 2013 4:58PM
I think the article is confusing daycare - like in a center, nanny services and babysitters.  Babysitters watch little ones while the parents go out for an evening.  Nannies watch kids on a one on one basis, take them on outings and do light house cleaning.  Daycare centers are just that. 
Aug 12, 2013 3:16PM
Aug 12, 2013 3:24PM
I am a child care provider at home and I don't make that much.  It would seem I am getting cheated.  I have 30 yrs experience and wouldn't mind having more children.  I enjoy teaching and caring for them or I wouldn't be in the business.  Anyone need help???  My rates are really affordable and any age is invited.
Aug 12, 2013 4:04PM
The sitters my siblings and I had in the 1970's were all teen girls who barely paid us any attention. They were paid to keep us alive and that was pretty much it.  I remember one gave us a bunch of candy, locked us out of the house and made us stay in the back yard in a rainstorm while she and her boyfriend got high and had sex! 
Aug 12, 2013 4:02PM
WOW in some parts of the country, teachers don't make much more than that. Sad Really.
Aug 12, 2013 4:20PM
Reason number 20,000 on why I'll never have kids.
Aug 12, 2013 4:26PM
This will just cause some parents to leave their children unsupervised.
Aug 12, 2013 5:54PM
Aug 12, 2013 6:01PM
So what happened to asking the girl next door to babysit? Why do people think their kids have to have champagne and caviar 24/7? Truth be told, these "experts" they are hiring are not any better than a 16-year-old gum snapper.
Aug 12, 2013 4:09PM
Go ahead raise the rate of fast food workers, But once you raise the rate of that prossed food you might not have any consumers to pay the rat increase. Fast food work is for kids to teach them about money. In no way should people today assume they can support a family from fast food. That is the joke. So whats next . People protesting selling news papers because they want 15 an hour to. People need to think before they do things look at Michigan how broke they are now. Because the auto workers wanted more and more then the auto companies out sourced the work to mexico and china. Leaving the Americans broke
Aug 12, 2013 6:05PM
Ridiculous. Some college graduates don't make that much. Babysitting used to be  teenagers way of earning a few bucks, not putting mom and dad through the ringer for a movie. 
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