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Ironic But True: Daycare Providers Can’t Afford Daycare for Their Own Kids

Ironic But True: Daycare Providers Can’t Afford Daycare for Their Own Kids

The nation’s roughly 2.1 million day care providers often have few preschool options for their own kids. How come? Their entire weekly wages can barely cover the cost.

While daycare providers are expected to have the same credentials as public-school teachers, their pay is more in line with a minimum-wage job. Without free child care options from family or neighbors, the cost of care eats up an entire paycheck.

Sociologists and economists blame the paradox on such things as the decreasing national birth rate, as well as the persisting gender pay gap.

According to the 2018 Early Childhood Education Workforce Index, dwindling government funding is the chief culprit, forcing families to pay out of pocket with slim financial support for a major expense that’s an important part of the economy.

Bottom line, parents who can afford it pay dearly for child care, even though the women who do the work can barely make ends meet on their salary.

In essence, the predominantly female daycare providers who hold up a system that supports 10 million children and their families can’t get ahead.

Here are some facts and figures:

  • Since 1975, the portion of U.S. mothers who work outside the home has increased by 50 percent, yet, on average, a married U.S. mother spends nearly 90 hours engaged in active child care each week, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Multiple long-term studies show supervised early-education programs are critical for future academic success. Yet low-income families can barely afford a service that can help put their children on a path to economic stability.
  • Often families of color have fewer options. With nearly 60 percent living in areas with an undersupply of licensed child care, according to a new report from Center of American Progress. And those who have access to daycare often fall victim to the laws of supply and demand, priced out of programs or ending up on a waiting list.
  • According to the 2018 Early Childhood Education Workforce Index, between 2015 and 2017, median wages for child care workers nationwide increased by 7 percent. Even so these workers were earning less than two-thirds of the median wage for all occupations.
  • One-third of families now spend 20 percent or more of their annual household income on child care, according to a Care.com survey. Seven in 10 families report paying rates higher than the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ definition of affordable care, while nearly one in five families spends a quarter or more of their household income on child care.

We’re strong supporters of education for economic success at all levels, but especially for the state’s youngest. That’s why nearly one-half of our giving in 2018 supported education. We’re advocates, too. Check out the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance’s 2019 priorities:

Improve the Quality of Early Care and Education

  • Raise wages of early educators in state-subsidized child care and preschool programs and index them to future increases in the minimum wage.
  • Raise Care4Kids payment rates to child care providers to the federally recommended 75th percentile of market
  • Ensure parity in funding between various programs providing the same early care and education services

Support Parents in Raising Thriving Children

  • Adopt Paid Family Medical Leave
  • Require Predictable Work Schedules (with exceptions for industries with legally required staff to client ratios)
  • Fix the broken Birth to Three Early Intervention Program
  • Adopt Two-Generation Strategies to grow the economy and end poverty

Improve Access to Early Care and Education

  • Expand eligibility for the Care4Kids child care subsidy to families earning up to 75% of the State Median Income
  • Allow parents in school or job training programs to get Care4Kids for class and study time
  • Provide more supports to homeless families, including child care, so they can get back on their feet
  • Create a Child & Dependent Care tax credit

If you’d like to know more about early childhood educational issues, visit the Early Childhood Alliance.