Poverty Rates in Care Providers
By Melissa Winkler, Community Relations Manager, Society of St. Vincent de Paul Georgia
Research from Childcare Aware finds that, on average, Georgians pay more than $7,600 a year on childcare, which is 13.8% of a typical family’s annual income. Despite the great expense associated with quality childcare, more than one third of childcare workers live at or near the poverty line.
A study last year from the Economic Policy Institute found that the median wage for childcare workers is 23% lower than workers in similar occupations, and that 90% of workers are unable to meet a “modest yet adequate” standard of living in their respective community. Additionally, only 15% of these workers have employer-provided health insurance. The study also finds that while the wages for young and uneducated childcare workers are about on par with young, uneducated workers in other industries, the wage disparity for educated childcare workers compared to their counterparts in other industries is significant- 44.8% lower for childcare providers with a bachelors degree.
Part of the disparity in the cost of childcare and the low wages paid to childcare providers is the fact that low care giver to child ratios are incredibly important to quality care delivery. Small classroom sizes require a bigger workforce. An article in The Atlantic also points to increased costs in operations including “providing food, educational resources, rent, light, gas, water, Internet, landline phone,” limits the financial resources of childcare centers.
The wage disparity seen by childcare workers is mirrored in their counterparts who provide direct care to elderly and disabled people. These workers have median hourly incomes of between $8.65 and $9.62 according to research from the Carsey Institute. The wage disparity is one cause of high turnover in both sides of the caregiving industry. This turnover, poor conditions, and low wages for workers is particularly troubling when considering the U.S.’ aging population and the fact that 71% of households rely on childcare.
As we continue to rely on these workers who provide care and support to our most vulnerable populations, it is important to boost their economic possibilities. The work that these sectors perform is difficult and necessary. Often, these workers are an almost invisible force in the economy. Despite the fact that so many of us need caregivers at various times, the economic needs and struggles of this group are not central to policy and lawmaking. Caregivers in both categories work full time, skilled jobs but still live on the brink of poverty. We must work to ensure that the people who provide such essential work have quality job conditions and fair pay.