The people who take care of our littlest children are better educated than they used to be and are seeing their paychecks rise. They’re also staying in the profession longer than childcare workers had in the past. That’s according to a paper, “The early childhood care and education workforce from 1990 through 2010: Changing dynamics and persistent concerns,” to be published in Education Finance and Policy by Daphna Bassok, Maria Fitzpatrick, Susanna Loeb, Agustina S. Paglayan.
To be sure, childcare workers are still some of the lowest paid and least educated workers in the country. But this is the first data analysis to show marked improvement and contradicts other studies that have shown the quality of childcare workers has continued to decline.
What makes this study different is that the authors were able to include childcare workers who work inside a home, such as an Upper East Side Manhattan nanny, and not just at a daycare center or a preschool. Indeed, most of the gains were from the improved education and pay levels of people who work inside a home. (Unfortunately, it still excludes nannies who are paid under the table or family members who are not being paid at all, and it’s unclear how that affects the findings.)
Here are the numbers:
The authors estimate that there are 2.2 million early childhood care and education workers in the United States. They studied a nationally representative subsample of them from the Current Population Survey (CPS), which is administered every month by the U.S. Census and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. About 56 percent of them work at a day-care center, 26 percent of them work in a home and 18 percent work at a school.
Average annual earnings increased by 51 percent, from $10,746 to $16,215 between 1990 and 2009. Some of this increase was because these childcare professionals were working more hours, but average wages increased 33 percent from $8.80 per hour in 1990 to $11.70 per hour in 2009. Workers with employer‐paid pension and/or health benefits increased from 19 percent to 28 percent during the same period. Annual turnover decreased substantially from 32.9 percent in 1990 to 23.6 percent in 2010. In 2010, 28 percent of these childcare workers had at least a Bachelor’s degree, compared with 21 percent in 1990.
Still, the low-education, low-wage, high-turnover stereotype remains true. Nearly 40 percent of these workers only have a high school degree and $11.70 an hour keeps these workers below the poverty line. The turnover rate means that one quarter of childcare workers in 2009 had left the field in 2010.