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Early care and education workforce compensation, program quality, and child outcomes: A review of the research


Research Findings: Despite the importance of early care and education (ECE) for children’s early learning and parents’ labor force participation, workers average low pay with few benefits. The precarity of work and low compensation contribute to staff turnover and other problems, with potential implications for staff well-being, children’s development, and parents’ employment. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated problems relating to the supply of and staff recruitment and retention in ECE. This paper provides a brief background and then reviews the empirical research linking early ECE worker compensation with program quality, children’s outcomes, and staff turnover. We identified a range of studies that examined pay or workplace benefits in ECE, the majority of which used nonexperimental methods. In general, most studies found small associations among low compensation, poor worker mental health or well-being, or turnover or intentions to leave their jobs or the early childhood field. Fewer studies examined associations between compensation and measures of quality or children’s outcomes, finding small or nonsignificant associations. One study using experimental methods found evidence that financial bonuses reduced staff turnover. Practice or Policy: Together, evidence suggests that low worker compensation is linked with poorer worker outcomes and staff turnover in ECE. (author abstract)

Resource Type:
Literature Review
United States

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