Early Childhood Care and the Early Childhood Workforce in Minnesota

Every day in homes and centers, across the state, approximately 43,000 adults are paid to take care of and educate over 200,000 children ages zero to five.  Early childhood teachers also take care of approximately 175,000 school-aged children before and after school and during the summers.  In addition, an unknown number of unlicensed care providers (also known as Family, Friend and Neighbor care)  care for children so that their parents can go to work or to school.  We have very little data on Family, Friend and Neighbor care.   

In the metropolitan Twin Cities area, most children are cared for in child care centers.  In Greater Minnesota, children are primarily cared for in licensed family homes.  The number of licensed family childcare providers has decreased 30% since 2005 which means that finding child care, particularly infant care, can be really challenging.  This shortage of child care has been called a “quiet crisis.”  Marnie Werner, Reseach Director at the Center for Rural Policy and Development, has been reporting on this quiet crisis.  Click here for her 2016 publication and watch her video below, with updated information.

Twenty-six percent of people in Minnesota live in a child care desert.  Child care deserts are census tracts with more than 50 children in which there are three times as many children as licensed child care slots.  Click here to learn more about child care deserts in Minnesota.

What do we know about the Child Care Workforce in Minnesota?  

  • Providers and teachers are aging out and fewer individuals are entering the early childhood workforce.
  • Currently the workforce as a whole lacks diversity – between 88 and 95% of the workforce is white at a time when Minnesota’s student demographics are changing[1]
  • People in the field need additional skill in meeting the needs of children with diverse backgrounds and languages
  • Attracting candidates to the field is challenging as people don’t see it as a viable career given the low wages and lack of opportunity for career advancement. The median hourly wage for a child care worker in Minnesota is only $10.81. [2]
  • Those who do enter often have to rely to public income supports due to low wages. Child care workers in Minnesota participate in the Earned Income Tax Credit, Medicaid/CHIP, Food Stamps and TANF at a cost of $43 million per year.[3]
  • Due to low numbers of applicants and the prospect of low wages for their graduates, Institutes of Higher Education (IHE) are closing early childhood degree programs
  • At times, students interested in the field are being counseled out of their choice by well-meaning advisors who make a case that they will not be able to pay back student loans following graduation or support their own families.

[1] Valorose, J. and Chase, R., Child Care Workforce in Minnesota:  2011 Statewide Study of Demographics, Training and Professional Development, August 2012.

[2] Whitebook, M., McLean, C., and Austin, L.J.E. (2016)  Early Childhood Workforce Index -2016.  Berkeley California:  Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, University of California, Berkeley.

[3] Ibid.