UC Berkeley center to co-lead U.S. program on child care workforce

a child care teacher sits between two young children at a tiny indoor table as the children focus on learning materials

Median wages for early care and education workers are near or below poverty levels, according to the UC Berkeley Center for the Study of Child Care Employment (CSCCE). A new federal project, co-led by CSCCE, will explore how to improve conditions for the workforce. (Credit: Ana Fox-Hodess, UC Berkeley)

The Center for the Study of Child Care Employment (CSCCE) at UC Berkeley has been selected to help lead a major new federal project that will explore how to strengthen the U.S. child care system by improving conditions for its workforce.

CSCCE has been a prominent voice in warning that poverty-level wages and chronic race and gender inequities are putting the nation’s child care system in jeopardy, with a direct impact on children, working families and the wider economy.

The new National Early Care and Education Workforce Center, with a $30 million budget over five years from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has the potential to research the challenges and prescribe solutions that could have a transformative impact on child care.

headshot of Lea Austin, co-director of the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment (CSCCE)

Lea Austin (UC Berkeley photo)

“CSCCE is thrilled that the federal government is investing in improving conditions for the early care and education workforce,” said Lea Austin, CSCCE executive director.  “Our involvement with the National Early Care and Education Workforce Center will complement our ongoing research and policy efforts towards securing racial, gender and economic justice for the workforce.”   

“We know it is hard for families to find quality early childhood programs,” said January Contreras, HHS assistant secretary for Administration for Children and Families. “We cannot continue to expect early educators to remain in these critical roles only to earn poverty wages. The National Early Care and Education Workforce Center will help states and localities support early care and education professionals — and, in doing so, support working families.”

The early care and education workforce plays an integral role in the health and development of children while providing an essential service to working families and the economy, yet the educators’ knowledge, skills and well-being are often undervalued. 

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic revealed that investments are necessary to strengthen the economy and ensure the stability of early care and education.

CCSCE’s role in the project is being led by Elena Montoya, a senior research and policy associate.

Since 1999, CSCCE has been the nation’s primary source of research and policy analysis regarding the early care and education workforce.

Read more about CSCCE's work as a core partner in the National Early Care and Education Workforce Center.