Of the nearly one million child care workers in the United States, in a recent white paper, 31.2% – basically 1 out of every 3 – experienced food insecurity in 2020, the latest year for which data was analyzed.
Food insecurity means there is a lack of consistent access to enough food. This rate of food insecurity is anywhere from 8 to 20 percentage points higher than the national average. High food insecurity is when a person reports reduced quality and variety of diet. Very high food insecurity occurs when a person reports disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake.
In Washington state and Texas, one study found 42% of child care workers experienced food insecurity, with 20% of child care workers experiencing very high food insecurity.
Another study in Arkansas found that 40% of child care workers experienced food insecurity.
People who are food insecure are at increased chances of being poor health, with conditions like hypertension, diabetes, asthma, arthritis and depression, among other chronic diseases and health conditions.
This workforce is central to providing high-quality early childhood education to children up to 5 years old. Despite the fact that the more education child care workers have the higher-quality care they deliver, many states require only a high school diploma or equivalent, and some states do not have any education requirements for entry-level positions.
Low wages and food insecurity may contribute to child care workers’ high-stress levels. When child care workers experience stress, they tend to reduce the amount of positive attention to children and increase their punitive responses to children’s challenging behavior.
Overall, child care workers’ wages are low, with the median hourly wage being $12.24 per hour. This means child care workers make little more than fast-food workers, whose median pay is $11.64 per hour. What child care workers make is not considered a living wage. Child care workers with a bachelor’s degree average $14.70 per hour, which is just under half the average earnings overall of those with a bachelor’s degree – $27 per hour.
As a result of low wages, more than 53% of child care workers received public assistance, including Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program from 2014 to 2016.
When so many child care workers rely on public assistance, it reveals how many of them don’t make enough money to get by.
Nearly all U.S. child care workers are women, and half are people of color.
Opinion | Around 1 in 3 Child Care Workers Are Going Hungry | Colin Page McGinnis (commondreams.org)
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