Economic Snapshot | Inequality and Poverty

Most child care workers can’t even afford care for their own children

Despite the crucial nature of their work, child care workers do not seem to be valued in today’s economy: they are among the country’s lowest-paid workers, and many cannot afford child care for their own children. In 32 states and the District of Columbia, preschool workers must set aside more than one-third of their earnings to put one child in infant care—far more than the Department of Health and Human Services’ recommendation that child care cost 10 percent or less of a family’s income. For child care workers working in centers other than preschools, the situation is even worse: in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, these workers must set aside at least 30 percent of their earnings to put one child in infant care.

Of the 1.2 million child care workers in the country today, 96 percent are women. In addition to making very low wages ($10.31 per hour at the median), they are not likely to receive employer-provided benefits like health insurance.

As with any occupation, businesses can attract and retain the best workers by compensating them well. Child care workers play a dual role in society by allowing parents of young children to pursue employment outside the home and by providing children a stimulating and nurturing environment in which to grow. We need a bold solution to ensure child care workers earn enough while also making high-quality care accessible for parents.

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