Underpaid and Unequal: Racial Wage Disparities in the Early Childhood Workforce

Source: Rebecca Ullrich, Katie Hamm, Rachel Herzfeldt-Kamprath, Center for American Progress, August 2016

From the summary:
More than 3 million children younger than age 6 regularly attend center-based care and education. Formal care arrangements—such as child care centers and preschools—are an increasingly prominent part of children’s lives: 65 percent of young children have all available parents in the workforce. Policymakers, recognizing the importance of these early care and education environments—not just as a work support for parents but also as a means to promote children’s learning and development—are looking for strategies to boost program quality.

Experts know that effective teachers are central to quality early care and education. It is no surprise, then, that many quality improvement efforts have focused on increasing education requirements for teachers and bolstering access to professional development and training. Children’s learning and development is supported by thoughtful instruction and warm, engaging interactions. It takes a skilled and effective workforce to provide the level of instruction necessary to promote positive outcomes—including social skills and early literacy and numeracy skills—but the United States continues to pay most early childhood educators embarrassingly low wages. Preschool teachers and child care workers rank in the bottom 20th percentile for mean annual salaries. Moreover, many teachers lack access to important benefits such as health insurance and paid leave.

New analyses presented in this report suggest that poor compensation and benefits are felt most acutely by African American women in the early childhood workforce. On average, African American female teachers working full time make 84 cents for every $1 earned by their white counterparts. White teachers working full-time make an average of $13.86 per hour: This 16 percent wage gap means an African American teacher would make $366 less per month and $4,395 less per year, on average. When differences in educational backgrounds, years of experience, and employment characteristics are taken into account, the wage gap between African American and white female, full-time teachers is reduced to roughly 93 cents on the dollar. However, this is still a meaningful difference in a workforce that makes less than $30,000 per year, on average…..