Insult: the low wages paid to child care providers

In the wake of the Romeny/Rosen kerfuffle, Elizabeth Duffy crunches some numbers:

My friend, Beth, stays home from work, homeschools her children, and has a Master’s Degree in Biology. Her neighbor, who was going back to work after some time at home, asked Beth if she’d babysit for her son. Thinking it might be good social interaction for her own kids, Beth tentatively agreed.

“What do you want to be paid?” her neighbor asked.

“What’s the going rate these days?” asked Beth, knowing that she had recently paid $10 an hour for an evening babysitter.

“Around $2.00 or $2.50 an hour.”

Surprised, Beth asked around to find out what other places and people charged for daycare. And sure enough, the going local rate was around $2.50 an hour for one child.

These rates are supported by data collected in a report in 2011 on childcare in Indiana (pdf). For full time work, Indiana residents can expect to find childcare in someone’s home for just about $5000 annually, which is about $2.50 an hour for a forty-hour work week. Nationally, the average annual salary for childcare workers in a daycare center isaround $20,000, which is slightly less than the average salary of an employee at McDonald’s.

There will be huge variation from state to state on these rates, and many childcare providers receive government subsidies to make up the difference, but on average, childcare providers are some of the lowest paid workers in America.

Needless to say, having another child in her home five days a week, eight hours at a time was worth a little more money to her than her neighbor wanted to pay. She ultimately concluded that accepting that rate for in-home care was a devaluation of what she actually gave her own children: good schooling from an educated teacher, nutritious meals, a spiritual life, and of course the quality time, care, and love of their own mother.

Putting a price on her “services” made her recognize just how priceless was what she had to offer, and the $2.50 an hour rate came to feel not only like unjust payment for her qualifications, but also an insult to the value of her motherhood and the sacrifices she’s made to stay home.

There is nothing morally wrong about women working outside the home, especially in cases where they are a primary provider for their families. But when we talk about demanding equal pay for women, and finding affordable childcare so that women can work, we tend to discount the fact that most childcare providers are also women, many of whom are asked to accept a pittance in order to accommodate other women who have “real” jobs.

Read the rest.


  1. pagansister says:

    It is outrageous that child care providers are paid so little, considering the responsibility they have. Unfortunately I’m not surprised, having been paid next to nothing working in the field at one point. However I didn’t have to live on my pay! One can’t live on that kind of pay.

  2. You’re right. The pay is abysmal. The wage, I think, is more about the ability of the parent to pay than about the day care provider’s value. I remember making the decision with my wife about whether to return to work or be a stay at home mom when our children were young.
    My wife was a teacher. When we added up the costs of transportation, day care etc. The added income was hardly worth it.
    We had to live very simply during the years that my wife was a stay at home mom but looking back I really think we chose well.

  3. To add a little perspective, yes the pay is lousy; but sometimes doing daycare is a way to stay home with one’s own children. It isn’t for everybody, you really do need to love kids. But if, for instance, you have two or three kids who would have to be in day care if you work outside the home, unless you have a really well paying job, you might be clearing more money by caring for, say, three other kids in addition to your own. In addition, if you are licensed and participate in the USDA’s daycare food program, that is another monthly check. Day care providers are underappreciated; the good ones provide stability and security to the children in their care; the place where they go to day care is truly their “home away from home”.

  4. Mark Greta says:

    Our daughter did this for a couple of years while she was struggling to have children of her own. She went about setting it up the right way with full state certification, insurance, and a set of goals for the children based on age. At one point she had about 8 children all pre school age and was paid close to $15 per hour per child. It depends on if you are offering a comprehensive program and are certified, or are just a mom winging it with a neighbor. She did this for two years and always had a waiting list. When she had twins of her own, she sold her business to a neighbor and for three years recieved a nice income on the revenue stream and as a consultant. The neighbor expanded the service with two hired people and expanded to 18 kids and still had waiting list. And this is in Ohio. Depends on your product and marketing.

  5. John Fitzgerald says:

    By the way. Many of these child care providers have no unemployment ins., no social security benefits, no Workers compensation benefits, no taxes withheld etc. and when the child goes to school no job. The number of questions raised by the short article are numerous. The same situation exist for families who hire indivduals to come into their homes to aid their elderly parents. I am amazed when people complain that it cost almost as more as I make to pay for care providers.

    I would love to give some opinions but I would violate the guidelines for comments.

  6. Catherine says:

    The going rate where we live is around $16 an hour. When we had a full-time nanny, we paid all taxes, as well as a paid vacation each year. A lot of the ladies who do babysitting and eldercare where we live are from the islands, and not all are here legally, so they have few or no protections under the law. I’ve seen people take terrible advantage of some of them — demanding that they work outrageously long hours, firing them without warning or severance pay, and the like.

  7. When I was a child, childcare was fairly cheap. There were mum’s that didn’t go out to work but would mind other people’s children during the day or after school for a few quid.
    find child care


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