Panel Paper: The Early Care and Education Workforce: Counts, Characteristics and Income Differentials

Saturday, November 9, 2013 : 4:30 PM
Salon III A (Ritz Carlton)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Richard Brandon, RNB Consulting
Children’s developmental outcomes and success in adult life are affected by the quality of their nonparental caregiving; such effects are greatest for low income children. However, it has been estimated that almost half of the paid ECE workforce is in home-based settings for which standard federal labor force statistics are not collected.  Consequently, essential policy concerns for the effective training, recruitment, retention and ongoing professional development of paid early care and education (ECE) workers are being addressed without basic information about the size and characteristics of the complete ECE workforce. The National Survey of Early Care and Education (NSECE) is designed to provide the first comprehensive estimate of number of paid ECE workers and to profile their key characteristics. This was accomplished through linked surveys encompassing leaders of center-based programs, home-based workers identified through administrative lists and home-based workers and unpaid caregivers identified through a household-based sample. This paper will present the first descriptive results of the early care and education workforce from these current national data.

The data include standard labor force characteristics such as formal education, age, experience, full-/part-time status and level of responsibility which are essential to developing policies regarding compensation, recruitment and retention. Robust research has demonstrated that worker attitudes and orientations are more predictive of observed caregiving quality and child outcomes than those basic characteristics. The NSECE therefore included a range of tested scales regarding authoritarian vs. progressive beliefs, motivation, stress and depression, asked consistently across all components of the workforce. Additional items having some evidence of association with quality caregiving were also incorporated, including morale, use of curriculum, planning and activities conducted with children. The rich array of information about individual workers, nested in data about their program or home-based setting and their community of location, will provide the basis for several types of analyses including examination of relationships between attributes of workers and compensation and program characteristics, and professional development and program leadership.

From a policy perspective it is important to know the type of program and auspice employing the worker so that appropriate supports or regulations can be devised: a Head Start or public pre-K program, a community-based center, a for-profit or non-profit enterprise, a publicly-available home-based operation that charges fees and serves children to whom the worker does not have a prior relationship vs. an exclusively privately-arranged home setting that serves only children with a prior relationship or does not charge a fee. The NSECE was designed to allow comparison of workers employed in these different types of setting, including almost 4,500 home-based workers, about 1,500 unpaid caregivers and over 5,500 center-based staff.

Findings will be presented overall, and, to the extent possible, by the percentage of low-income children served in a setting and by the poverty density of the geographic community of location. The degree of similarity between these two measures in differentiating the attributes of workers serving low-income children or low-income communities, compared to others, will be an important methodological contribution.