The early childhood care and education workforce in the United States: Understanding changes from 1990 through 2010
Despite heightened policy interest in improving the quality of the early childhood care and education (ECCE) workforce, very little is known about the characteristics of this workforce or the extent to which these characteristics have changed over time. Using nationally-representative data, this paper fills this gap by documenting changes between 1990-2010 in the educational attainment, compensation and turnover of the ECCE workforce overall and within each of the three sectors that compose it: centers, homes and schools. We find that average educational attainment and compensation of ECCE workers, as well as the prestige of those entering the workforce, increased substantially over the period studied, and that turnover decreased. We also document a major shift in the composition of the ECCE workforce towards center-based settings and away from home-based settings. Although this shift towards more regulated settings provides one plausible explanation for the overall improvements, we actually find that the improvements in the characteristics of the ECCE workforce were primarily driven by changes within each of the sectors rather than by the shift away from home-based settings towards centers. Further, we show that the home-based workforce exhibited the most profound changes over the period examined.