Wages in the Child Care Workforce Remain Low Despite Gains

Early care and education professionals have historically faced substantial obstacles when it comes to maintaining a healthy and motivated workforce.

The Ideas & Solutions blog is intended to provide a forum for the discussion of child care and early education issues and ideas. We hope to provoke thoughtful discussions within the field and to help those outside the field gain a better understanding of priorities and concerns.

Early care and education professionals have historically faced substantial obstacles when it comes to maintaining a healthy and motivated workforce. In 2019 child care workers were both paid less than their K-8 counterparts and had a significantly higher rate of poverty than the average worker in the state of Kansas source.  A lack of substantial benefits such as healthcare and paid time off contribute to the precarious economic situations early care and education workers often find themselves in. Fast forward to today and that situation has largely remained unchanged and the factors contributing to the instability in the labor force still persist. 

Despite the importance of the work that ECE professionals provide they are among the most poorly compensated professions in the country. According to data from the Office of Employment Statistics (OES), before the pandemic (2019), average wages in early care and education were among the lowest in the country with an average wage of $11.65 compared to the national average across all occupations at $19.14 source. Recently, occupations across the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum, including early care and education, have seen substantial wage gain. However, despite this recent uptick, child care still remains poorly compensated due to the long-term wage freeze that took place in the preceding years. 

In 2014, a follow up report was issued to the 1989 National Child Care Staffing Study which found that between 1997 and 2014 wages in ECE grew a paltry 1 percent compared to their counterparts in Pre-School whose wages grew by 15 percent in the same period source. From 2019 to 2024 average wages within the industry rose by nearly 30 percent resulting in the average pay going from $11.65 to $14.60. While increased wages are a welcome change in the industry, because of the mediocre gains of the previous years this hasn’t resulted in the early care industry becoming more competitive with other service sector jobs. According to BLS statistics, in 2024 the average wages of early care workers, at $14.60, are still well below the national average across all occupations at $23.11 source.  

This dynamic is simply not reflective of the importance of early care and education. Scientific evidence shows that ECE workers are an essential part of successful development during childhood while the brain experiences an exponential growth period source. Providing the future that we want to see for our children will not only take the continued commitment of the workers within the field but also a continued commitment from the community as we seek to raise the money needed to stabilize the early care and education system both in Kansas and nationwide.

Find Kansas Child Care Data

Our comprehensive point in time data, organized by county, is meant to assist local communities — including families, employers, and other community leaders — as they work to address critical child care shortages.

  • Benjamin Jacobson
    Communications and Development Coordinator, Child Start

    Ben Jacobson graduated with a degree in Communications from Wichita State University in 2019. As the current Communications and Development Coordinator for Child Start, he works to engage the community across all mediums to advance their mission to improve outcomes in early care and education.