Mothers of Very Young Children in Low-Wage Occupations


Nearly one in five working mothers of very young children (age 3 and under) work in low-wage jobs. For the children who depend on their income, the first three years of life are especially critical due to the rapid brain development and skill formation that occur during this time. But low-wage work often makes it exceptionally difficult for parents to meet their children’s basic needs, and parents in these jobs struggle to find and afford safe, secure—much less high-quality—child care. More broadly, the very nature of low-wage jobs and the accompanying financial insecurity can create tremendous stress for parents, which can affect their relationships with their children as well as the home environment and put their children at risk of falling behind even before they enter school.

Click on a state above to see its share of working mothers of very young children in low-wage occupations, as well as the average cost of full-time infant care at child care centers, child poverty rates, and minimum wages by state.


Mothers of very young children and the total workforce: American Community Survey 2011-15 five-year averages calculated by NWLC using Steven Ruggles et al., IPUMS: Version 6.0 [Machine-readable database]. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2015. Median hourly wage of occupations (used to determine low-wage occupations): Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Occupational Employment Statistics (OES), May 2015 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates,
Average cost of full-time infant care at child care centers: Child Care Aware, Parents and the High Cost of Child Care 2016 Report, Appendix Table 1: 2015 Average Annual Cost of Full-Time Center-Based Child Care by State,
Child poverty rates: NWLC calculations based on U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey,
Minimum wages: U.S. Department of Labor, Minimum Wage Laws in the States, January 1, 2017, available at


Mothers of very young children are those who have at least one child age 3 or younger at home. Figures are for all employed workers. “Low-wage” occupations are those with median hourly wages of $10.50 or less per hour.