Early Childhood

Study Finds Big Early-Ed. Pay Gaps in Washington, D.C., Area

By Marva Hinton — April 19, 2018 2 min read
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A new study from the Urban Institute finds a huge gap in pay between entry-level kindergarten teachers and early-childhood educators in child-care centers, home care, and schools’ before- and after-care programs in the Washington, D.C. area.

The study also finds big gaps in pay for early-childhood educators in the region along racial and ethnic lines. (Data limitations prevented the researchers from considering prekindergarten teachers located in elementary and secondary schools.)

Researchers found that on average entry-level kindergarten teachers in the region make $27.36 an hour, while early-childhood educators make an average of $15.25 per hour.

“I knew there’d be a gap, but I didn’t know it was going to be quite that large,” said Julia Isaacs, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute and the principal investigator for the study, which looked at six jurisdictions in the Washington, D.C. area.

Early-childhood educators who are white also make substantially more than their black or Hispanic counterparts. The report notes that on average, black educators earn just 84 cents for every dollar earned by white educators, while Hispanic educators only make 74 cents per dollar.

The researchers also found that early-childhood educators with bachelor’s degrees didn’t make much more than their counterparts with less education. On average, early-childhood educators who earned a four-year degree only made $1.75 more per hour than educators without a degree.

The researchers broke down the early-childhood education field by place of employment and found some differences in compensation based on that. For example, center-based educators coded as preschool teachers earned the highest wages, while center-based educators coded as child-care workers earned the lowest wages. Family child-care educators and school-based educators in before- and after-school programs fell in between those two groups.

Employer-provided health insurance was not a given—only 52 percent of early-childhood educators had this benefit. The report indicates that 15 percent of these educators are on Medicaid and some workers rely on SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, to feed their families.

“More educated, more school-ready children is good overall for children’s education,” said Isaacs. “If we could get high-quality care for all our children, that would improve equity, and I think it would reduce some of the achievement gaps that we see in school.”

The report looks at how several states are trying to tackle the problem of low salaries in the field, including some that offer direct public funds to increase teacher pay and others that provide tax credits to early-childhood teachers.

The researchers focused on six jurisdictions: Washington, D.C., Alexandria, Va., Fairfax County, Va., Montgomery County, Md., and Prince George’s County, Md., and compiled the report using national survey data and regional public school pay plans in addition to expert interviews and a review of relevant literature.

Image by Getty

A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.