The following research reports and policy briefs support our efforts to identify policy solutions that can improve the compensation and work environments of the early care and education workforce.

Worthy Work, STILL Unlivable Wages: The Early Childhood Workforce 25 Years after the National Child Care Staffing Study

Worthy Work, STILL Unlivable Wages: The Early Childhood Workforce 25 Years after the National Child Care Staffing Study
by Marcy Whitebook, Deborah Phillips, and Carollee Howes

Full Report | Executive Summary | Event Webcast | Media | Report Order Form

“Good quality care requires an environment that values adults as well as children.”
– National Child Care Staffing Study, 1989

The National Child Care Staffing Study (NCCSS) released in 1989, brought national attention for the first time to poverty-level wages and high turnover among early childhood teaching staff, and to the adverse consequences for children. In the succeeding 25 years, combined developments in science, practice, and policy have dramatically shifted the context for discussions about the status of early childhood teaching jobs, and the importance of attracting and retaining a well-prepared workforce that is capable of promoting young children’s learning, health and development.

Today, the explosion of knowledge about what is at stake when early childhood development goes awry has coincided with powerful economic arguments for investments in high-quality early care and education. New evidence about the ways in which stress and economic insecurity challenge teachers’ capacity to provide developmentally supportive care and education is lending scientific support to the claim that child well-being depends on adult well-being not only at home but in out-of-home settings. And, serious debate at the federal level, echoed in virtually every state, is underway about the vital importance of improving the quality of early education, and the most productive strategies for ensuring that young children’s critical early experiences will promote, not undermine, their lifelong learning and healthy development.

Worthy Work, STILL Unlivable Wages compiles evidence from multiple sources to provide a portrait of the early childhood teaching workforce today in comparison to 25 years ago. The need to rely on a variety of data sources to obtain this portrait reveals the absence of a comprehensive, regularly updated database on the status and characteristics of the early childhood workforce. In addition to examining trends in center-based teachers’ education, wages and turnover, the report includes new evidence examining economic insecurity and use of public benefits among this predominantly female, ethnically diverse workforce. The report also appraises state and national efforts to improve early childhood teaching jobs, and offers recommendations aimed at reinvigorating a national conversation about the status and working conditions of the more than two million teaching staff who work in our nation’s early care and education settings.

Special thank you to CentroVITA in Berkeley, CA for the cover picture.

Full ReportExecutive Summary

Selected Appendix Tables

Mean Hourly Wages by State for Childcare Workers, Preschool Teachers, and Kindergarten Teachers

Annual Program Participation Rates in Public Support Programs for Childcare Worker Families, by Selected States

Average Annual Public Support Program Costs for Childcare Worker Families, by Selected States

Previous NCCSS Reports

Who cares? Child care teachers and the quality of care in America. Final report, National Child Care Staffing Study

National Child Care Staffing Study revisited: Four years in the life of center-based child care

Worthy work, unlivable wages: The National Child Care Staffing Study, 1988-1997

Posted 2014.


Building a Skilled Teacher Workforce

Building a skilled teacher workforce: Shared and divergent challenges in early care and education and in grades K-12 prepared by Marcy Whitebook for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation 2014.

Across the K-12 and early care and education (ECE) communities, similar conversations are underway about how to recruit teachers and strengthen their preparation, how to provide ongoing learning experiences for new and veteran teachers, and how to organize school environments to ensure that all teachers can best address the needs of an increasingly diverse child population. But these conversations are also widely divergent, given that the histories of the two sectors have led to distinct personnel and service delivery systems.

In order to develop an early learning strategy for the U.S. that is capable of improving educational outcomes for young children, it is critical to understand the personnel-related opportunities and challenges the ECE sector faces, as well as how these differ from those encountered in the K-12 sector. This paper discusses the public perception of early childhood teaching, the history and purpose of education for children of different ages, and describes key features of the personnel systems that have emerged from these varied roots, comparing them along several dimensions, and offers several suggestions for promoting a skilled and stable early care and education workforce for the 21st century.

The Foundation commissioned a series of papers to understand the impact of high-quality early childhood programs that are effective in producing lasting gains for young children. Read Building a Skilled Teacher Workforce and Lessons from Research and the Classroom.

Posted 2014.


Staff Preparation, Reward, and Support: Are Quality Rating and Improvement Systems Including All of the Key Ingredients Necessary for Change?

By Lea J.E. Austin, Marcy Whitebook, Maia Connors, and Rory Darrah

As quality rating and improvement systems (QRISs) increasingly become the key strategy for improving the quality of early care and education, it is critical to understand and examine how such systems define quality, the benchmarks used to indicate quality, and the opportunities in place to support improvement. This report examines the extent to which QRISs support the professional development of practitioners and include in their rating rubrics key ingredients — staff qualifications, direct compensation, and the factors related to work settings –  that have been linked to quality.

Download the Report (pdf)

Download the Executive Summary (pdf)

Posted 2011.


Degrees in Context: Asking the Right Questions about Preparing Skilled and Effective Teachers of Young Children

The Center for the Study of Child Care Employment and the National Institute for Early Education Research have jointly published a NIEER Policy Brief, Degrees in Context: Asking the Right Questions about Preparing Skilled and Effective Teachers of Young Children. In this Policy Brief, Marcy Whitebook and Sharon Ryan argue that too much attention has been given to debating the baseline qualifications required of preschool teachers – AA vs. BA. They contend that it is just as necessary to take into account the nature of the education teachers receive en route to a degree, supports for ongoing learning, and the effects of the workplace environment on teaching practice. 

Policy Brief (pdf)

Posted 2011.


Learning Together: A Study of Six B.A. Completion Cohort Programs in Early Care and Education (Year 3 Report)

By Marcy Whitebook, Fran Kipnis, Laura Sakai, and Mirella Almaraz

The Year 3 interviews of the Learning Together study reveal that the vast majority of students successfully graduated from their B.A. cohort program. Year 3 interviews focused on two issues of concern about higher education programs – the practicum experiences for employed students and the adequacy of attention to working with children from linguistically diverse backgrounds. The graduates overwhelmingly reported that their B.A. classes provided them with skills and strategies needed to communicate with children who speak a language other than their own. While the majority of students reported that their practicum experiences helped them do a better job at their workplace, they also identified several areas for improvement. The Year 3 study also reports on the graduates’ perspectives about support at their jobs for ongoing learning and any changes in employment and/or compensation upon completing their degree.

Executive Summary (pdf)

Full Report (pdf)

Read more information about the Learning Together project, or read the Year 1 report, or Year 2 report.

Posted 2011.


Preparing Teachers of Young Children: The Current State of Knowledge, and a Blueprint for the Future

By Marcy Whitebook, Deanna Gomby, Dan Bellm, Laura Sakai, and Fran Kipnis

This two-part paper examines the early care and education (ECE) and K-12 research literature in depth to assess the current state of knowledge about the effective preparation of excellent teachers, and charts a research and policy agenda for the future.

» Executive summary (pdf)

» Comparison of K-12 and Early Care and Education Systems (pdf)

Part I: Teacher Preparation and Professional Development in Grades K-12 and in Early Care and Education: Differences and Similarities, and Implications for Research (pdf)
Part I summarizes the differences between the K-12 and the early care and education fields. We found more than enough similarities to warrant a close consideration of the combined wisdom of both fields.

Part II: Effective Teacher Preparation in Early Care and Education: Toward a Comprehensive Research Agenda (pdf)
Part II contains an in-depth review of our ECE and K-12 teacher preparation research and outlines what remains to be learned. It concludes with a set of key recommendations for research and policy.

Posted 2009.


Roots of Decline: How Government Policy Has De-Educated Teachers of Young Children

By Dan Bellm and Marcy Whitebook

This report analyzes labor trends for the early care and education workforce over the past 25 years – notably, an overall decrease in educational qualifications, and persistent wage stagnation – in the light of federal and state policy, and makes a series of recommendations for reversing these downward trends. Losing Ground in Early Childhood Education: Declining Workforce Qualifications in an Expanding Industry, 1979-2004 by Stephen Herzenberg, Mark Price, and David Bradley (2005) is the paper that prompted this policy analysis.

Download the report (pdf)

Posted 2006.


California Early Care and Education Workforce Study

By Marcy Whitebook, Laura Sakai, Fran Kipnis, Yuna Lee, Dan Bellm, Mirella Almaraz, and Paulina Tran

In 2005, CSCCE and the California Child Care Resource and Referral Network, with funding from First 5 California and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, conducted a statewide survey of California licensed child care workforce. This study identified the number of center-based and home-based staff working in licensed child care. The statewide survey was replicated in eight California counties. If you are interested in receiving the county reports, contact us at cscceinfo@berkeley.edu.

Study Highlights (pdf)
Licensed Child Care Centers (pdf)
Licensed Family Child Care Providers (pdf)

Posted 2006.