NWLC Releases Data Revealing Child Care Workers’ Wage Growth Lags Behind Other Low-Paid Occupations

Washington, DC – The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) today released new data that analyzed the changes in wage growth for child care workers and other low-paid occupations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The data reveals that between 2019 and 2022, median real hourly wages for child care workers grew by only 3.1 percent, which is lower than the wage growth rate for food and beverage serving workers (8.7 percent), retail sales workers (5.6 percent), recreation workers (5.3 percent), and many other low-wage service occupations.

“This data further underscores that child care providers, who are central to the strength of our families and our economy, are severely underpaid for their critical work,” said Melissa Boteach, Vice President for Income Security and Child Care/Early Learning at the National Women’s Law Center. “If federal relief dollars are allowed to expire, the child care workforce shortage will only get worse. It is critical that Congress pass additional and substantial federal funding to help ensure that child care workers, who are overwhelmingly women and disproportionately women of color, are justly compensated for their work.”

The fact that child care wages grew at all is largely due to the pandemic relief dollars provided by the American Rescue Plan Act, which enabled states to take steps to increase pay or benefits for early educators, as well as provide bonuses. A previously released report from NWLC found that federal COVID-19 relief dollars led forty-four states to increase at least some of their payment rates for providers between 2020 and 2022.

Once those relief dollars disappear on September 30, providers will have no choice but to either retrench those modest pay increases or charge higher fees to families who are already struggling to afford child care. This will be catastrophic for a sector where the median hourly wage for child care workers was just $13.71 in 2022.

Read the fact sheet on the data here.