A survey of over 4,200 home- and center-based child care providers in 2022 revealed several themes about the experiences and needs of Iowa’s workforce. The following major findings were identified.
As one part of the comprehensive 2023 Iowa Workforce Study, an online survey was developed based on findings from prior surveys and current stakeholder priorities. Between August 16th and September 9th of 2022, the survey opened state-wide and was distributed online using information about the workforce from the I-PoWeR provider registration system. Participants were compensated after completing the survey.
Providers were asked about their personal characteristics, family characteristics, program and service use, engagement with the field, and their needs to remain in the field (see Appendix A.1 for a full list of survey questions). The survey also provided rich qualitative data to shed further light on the unique experiences of providers across the state.
In total, 4,282 current or past providers in the early care and education field answered the survey, showing high engagement of providers and providing a representative sample of the provider workforce. Importantly, there were at least two providers from each of Iowa’s 99 counties (see Figure 1).
As shown in Table 1, 96% of the survey respondents were female, 52% were married, and 98% had English as their primary language. Although the majority of providers were white (86%), 5% were Hispanic, and 5% were Black. The remaining 4% were multiracial or from other underrepresented groups. The providers also showed socioeconomic diversity, with 53% of providers reporting household incomes of less than 185% of the Federal Poverty Level, which was $51,338 for a family of four in 20222.
2 Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. (2022). 2022 Poverty Guidelines.
Survey results also revealed that a majority of providers (56%) worked full time as employees (see Figure 2). However, this number also indicates that a large percentage of providers are in other arrangements or schedules. Specifically, many are self-employed (20%) and part-time employees (13%). Some of the respondents also said they were working outside of the field (3%) or not working (4%).
As seen in Figure 3, among those respondents currently working in the field, providers were largely new to their position, with the majority (54%) being in their position for 5 years or less. This finding suggests that the majority of the provider workforce does not have a long tenure in their position and that turnover may be large.
Respondents also reported on whether they had other paid jobs. Figure 4 shows that 17% of all participants said they had other paid jobs. Unsurprisingly, this percentage was higher among part-time workers where 35% had additional paid jobs (compared to 14% among full-time workers).
Early care and education (ECE) workers provided rich information about their personal and professional knowledge of and participation in services, access to benefits, intention to obtain more education, and the needs they require to stay in the ECE field. The large number of respondents in the survey allowed the team to analyze data by relevant subgroups. Thus, this report provides information about overall responses across the survey respondents, as well as differences that were found among families relative to marital status, educational level, and type of ECE setting.
The results are divided into four sections. First, a description ECE providers according to socioeconomic status including household income, marital status, education, and access to benefits. Second, we provide a deep look into the use of and respondent’s view of T.E.A.C.H and WAGE$. Third, we examine the job benefits and income wages.
Iowa’s early care and education workforce is composed of professionals with economic and educational diversity. Figure 5 shows respondents’ type of employment within the field of early care and education. Two- thirds of the respondents are center-based employees (66%) and one-quarter are home-based owners (25%), indicating these two groups compose the majority of the ECE workforce.
The survey also inquired about the age group that workers care for (see Figure 6). The majority of ECE workers care for toddlers or preschool-aged children, with over 34% of respondents reported they work with children in the elementary system.
Administrators and center care providers (i.e., teachers) were also asked about their wages. Although some are paid yearly and some by the hour, results are presented as an hourly rate for comparisons purposes (see Table 2). Owners of home-based settings reported earning the lowest hourly wage ($10.52), while directors and assistant directors in center-based settings earn the highest ($18.11-19.79). Results also showed that providers with higher education had higher hourly pay.
Regarding the wages of teachers specifically, data shows that higher education is associated with higher wages (Figure 7). Workers with a bachelor’s degree receive higher wages than their less educated co-workers. However, the hourly rate of teachers in the early care and education field is much lower than the rate in the k-12 system. Teachers or assistant teachers with a bachelor’s degree are paid almost 47% less than kindergarten teachers. These results suggest that efforts to increase income and training in the early child care and education field are desperately needed.
1 Median hourly rate in 2020 of kindergarten teachers. Retrieved from: Center for the Study of Child Care Employment. (2020). Early Childhood Workforce Index 2020, Iowa.
University of California, Berkeley. https://cscce.berkeley.edu/workforce-index-2020/states/iowa/
2 Mid-range hourly wage in 2021-2022 for elementary paraeducators in a large suburban school district. Retrieved from: Iowa City Community School District. (2022).
Paraeducator Benefits 2021-2022.
Questions about benefits were collected separately for home-based owners and all other respondents. Home-based owners are self-employed and thus, may have the option to provide benefits for themselves or access benefits through spouses or through government programs. As seen in Figure 8, the benefits of home-based owners can be divided in three groups depending on what way they receive these benefits.
Considering those benefits that were often accessed through either a spouse or state or federal supports, there are stark differences between married (68.8%) and unmarried (31.2%) home-based owners. As Figure 9 shows, most married respondents access health insurance (69%) and dental insurance (64%) through a partner, while their non-married peers most often access them through governmental supports (61% and 59%, respectively). Finally, most of the home-based workers reported that they do not access retirement, and this number is higher among unmarried respondents. This is due to the fact that 18% of married providers obtain retirement through their spouse.
Retention and career longevity may be addressed through reduction of barriers to benefits and supports. Responses indicate that marriage is an advantage when it comes to benefit access. The majority of home-based owners are married (68%) and this result suggests that marriage is a main vehicle to access benefits and maintaining a child care business. Unmarried providers or providers without spousal support may view the child care field as unattractive and difficult to maintain a career in long-term.
Table 3 shows the employment benefits that early care and education employees receive through their employer (including only center-based employees). Paid time-off is the most common benefit, with 70% of workers receiving it. The least received benefit was funding for education (15%). All other benefits were received by 27%-44% of providers. Notably, administrators more often received each of the benefits in comparison to teachers. Expectedly, full-time providers receive more benefits than part-time workers. However, between 20% and 30% of providers with a part-time schedule receive benefits of paid time-off, paid sick days, discounted child care, and professional development.
Table 4 presents household income of ECE providers by marital status, type of setting, and role. Findings from this survey indicate that a majority (53%) of child care workers live in households with incomes below $50,000, putting them below the 185% federal poverty threshold for a household of four.
Table 4 also presents the income level by sub-groups and shows whether differences between subgroups are statistically significant (indicated with *). The economic situation of unmarried workers is more difficult than that of married workers. Over 80% of unmarried providers have a household income of less than $50,000, while 55% are under $30,000 per year. In contrast, over 20% of married workers reported a household income of at least $100,000. Additionally, more home-based caregivers are in a higher income level than center-based ones.
Respondents were also asked to provide a subjective assessment of their economic situation. As shown in Table 5, 54% of respondents feel they are “getting by alright,” whereas 22% indicate they have financial difficulties of some kind. Similar to findings about provider income, the assessment of a household’s situation is better among married than un-married providers.
Although 46.5% of respondents are not currently participating in any government-assisted social services, over 50% of respondents reported they have had to rely on at least one public benefit such as Medicaid, WIC, SNAP, CCA, or Hawk-I at some point. As shown in Figure 10, the most used service is Medicaid (30%). In addition, results show that WIC (34%) and SNAP (24%) are the social services more often used in the past but not currently.
Table 6 shows receipt of social support services by relevant subgroups of respondents. Medicaid, SNAP, and CCA are used more often used by home-based providers than center-based ones and by unmarried workers than married ones. Medicaid, SNAP, and CCA are more often used by respondents reporting some (or many) financial problems.
Around 54% of respondents indicated they certainly would choose to work in the field and in their current position if they could start over again (see Figure 11). However, around 11% of respondents said that they certainly or probably would not choose the field or their position again.
Similarly, 62% of respondents said they want to stay in the field as long as they are able. Notably, this percentage was slightly larger among married respondents and those in administrative roles (compared to teaching) and those who were home-based owners (compared to center-based providers). Still, over 20% of respondents said they were unsure or that they will stay in the field until a specific event occurs.
Workers were asked to select the support that keeps them in the field. Figures 12 and 13 show the answers from employees and home-based owners, respectively.
As seen in Figure 12, nearly 80% of child care providers (excluding home-based care owners) said they are in the field because they feel their work is meaningful and that is the most important support keeping them in their job. Additionally, two thirds of respondents said that they stay because co-workers are friendly. These results suggest that among workers, emotional and social circumstances are the most important. In spite of this, salary, benefits and professional opportunities are challenges to remain in the field. In fact, only 22% of respondents say they stay in their position because the salary or because of the benefits.
Similarly, only 16% of respondents indicated they stay in the field because of the opportunities for advancement. In fact, while 47% of all providers report they want more professional coursework, they also reported significant barriers to accessing these courses. The primary challenge to getting more education is the cost of courses (76%), followed by working while courses are being offered (42%).
Figure 13 shows that 67% of home-based owners also feel that early care is meaningful work. However, they also endorsed reasons more practical in nature, such has having the opportunity of work from home (87%) and being able to care for their own children (60%).
Evidence from this survey indicates that providers are leaving the early child care and education field due heavily to compensation. For example, among respondents who are not currently working in early care and education, 52% said they would like to be working in the field and indicated that compensation and benefits were important reasons for leaving.
Information from former workers align with those of current workers, whose responses suggest they have hard times meeting their needs. In fact, 53% of the total sample live in households with incomes below $50,000, putting them below the federal poverty threshold for a family of three.
Given that 46% of the home- and center-based providers reported that they are single, it is important to note the significant gaps related to income for this group. Among single respondents, 80% reported a household income of less than $50,000, while 55% are under $30,000 per year.
Given these numbers, it is no surprise that early childhood workers overwhelmingly reported compensation as the primary need for them to stay in the field. The following are some of the comments provided by survey respondents when asked what could be done to help them stay:
Additionally, responses noted the challenges of working multiple jobs, recognition of professionalism in the field, mental health supports, and adequate reimbursement from CCA.
Professional supports and wage supplement programs like T.E.A.C.H. and WAGE$ help the early childhood workforce to stay in the field. Unfortunately, as shown in Table 8, T.E.A.C.H. and WAGE$ were the least known services among those listed, with 37% of respondents reporting they have never heard of them. Additionally, it seems like workers in teaching positions also have less awareness of the existence of the programs. This remains true even among teachers who say they are interested in more education. This evidence suggests that developing strategies for reaching teachers may be necessary to make them aware of the programs.
When the data is analyzed by sub-groups (Table 9), it was found that workers who are newer in the field are less likely to participate in WAGE$, as most of the providers participating are between ages 30 and 60. Workers who have been in their position from 5-20 years participate more (25-27%) than other respondents (12-17%). These findings may provide an immediate opportunity for outreach to new employees in the field to increase their knowledge of these programs.
As seen in table 10, providers currently participating in T.E.A.C.H. or WAGE$ are more likely to express they will stay in the field as long as they are able.
The relation between higher likelihood of staying in the field and WAGE$ participation remained true even after accounting for years in the field, marital status, and education. There were, however, some differences by education (shown in Table 11). Among participants with some college but no degree, workers were almost twice as likely (94% more likely) to stay in the field if they participated in WAGE$. Furthermore, as shown in Table11, among workers with a bachelor’s degree or more, respondents enrolled in WAGE$ were 32% more likely to report they would stay in the field compared to their counterparts not participating in WAGE$.
1.1 First name [All participants; open text]
1.2 Last name [All participants; open text]
1.3 Age [All participants; open text]
1.4 What is your employment status related to early care and education (i.e., child care, preschool, daycare, early childhood education)? [All participants; multiple choice]
1.5 Please tell us more about why you are not currently working in early care and education. What factors influenced your decision (e.g., wages, schedule, personal preference, home responsibilities). [Participants not currently working in the field; open text]
1.6 Would you like to be working in the early care and education field currently? [Participants not currently working in the field; yes/no]
1.7 What would make it possible for you to return to working in the early care and education field? [Participants not currently working in the field; open text]
1.8 Place of Employment (name and address) [Part- and full-time employees; open text]
1.9 Date you started in this position [Part- and full-time employees; date selection]
1.10 If self-employed, what business or program name do you use? [Self-employed; open text]
1.11 If retired or not currently working in early care and education, when did you last work in early care and education? (Month and year) [Participants not currently working in the field or retired; date]
1.12 If retired or not currently working, what program did you last work for? If you were self-employed, please enter your program/business name or “self-employed”. [Participants not currently working in the field or retired; open text]
1.13 Which of the following best describes your current employment in the early care and education field? [Part- and full-time employees or self-employed; multiple choice]
2.1 Are you Spanish, Hispanic, or Latino or none of these? [Multiple choice]
2.2 Choose one or more races that you consider yourself to be. [Multiple choice]
2.3 What is your gender? [Multiple choice]
2.4 Information about household income is very important to understand the financial well-being of the workforce. What is your yearly household income before taxes? [Multiple choice]
2.5 Which of these best describes how your family is doing financially these days? [Multiple choice]
2.6 What is your home ZIP code? [Open text]
2.7 Please specify your primary language. [Open text]
2.8 Please list any other languages spoken fluently. [Open text]
2.9 What is your marital status? [Multiple choice]
2.10 Please tell us how many people live in your household, including yourself, at least 50% of the time. [Multiple choice]
3.1 What is the highest level of school you have completed or the highest degree you have received? [Multiple choice]
3.2 What was your major or focus of study for each completed degree (e.g., associates in business, bachelors in early childhood education)? [Participants with associate degree or higher; open text]
3.3 Have you taken any CDA coursework? [Multiple choice]
3.4 Do you hold a current Iowa teaching license? [Multiple choice]
3.5 People have many reasons for not moving from initial to standard license. Why did you not move to a standard teaching license? [Open text]
3.6 Please check any certifications or endorsements you have or had in the past. [Multiple choice]
3.7 Do you have a para-educator certification? [Multiple choice]
3.8 Are you currently enrolled in college coursework related to early care and education? [Yes/no]
3.9 Have you taken any other college level coursework, such as credit hours beyond a completed credential or degree? [Participants with less than an associate degree; yes/no]
3.10 On what topics? If known, how many courses or credit hours? [Participants with less than an associate degree; open text]
3.11 What supports were helpful to you in completing college coursework? [Participants with less than an associate degree; multiple choice]
3.12 Do you have interest in taking additional college courses? [Yes/no]
3.13 People have lots of reasons for not wanting to pursue further education. Please check any that apply to you. [Multiple choice]
3.14 What are challenges to you taking more college courses (choose all that apply)? [Multiple choice]
4.1 Job title [Open text]
4.2 Job role [Multiple choice]
4.3 Please indicate which your work pertains to (check all that apply). [Multiple choice]
4.4 How much are you paid? [Open text for amount and multiple & Multiples choice for frequency]
4.5 About how many hours do you work a week? [Slider]
4.6 How many months a year do you work? [Multiple choice]
4.7 Please check all of the benefits available to you from your employer in your current position. [Multiple choice]
4.8 Do you work any other paid jobs? [Yes/no]
4.9 If you work other paid jobs, please tell us where you work and approximately how many hours per week you work additional jobs. [Open text]
4.10 Tell us more about your work place. Please check any of these you typically get at work. [Multiple choice]
4.11 What is the greatest challenge you are facing in your current job? [Open text]
5.1 What motivated you to start your family home child care business? [Open text]
5.2 What do you find most challenging about being a family home provider? [Open text]
5.3 When did you start providing care as a family home provider (month and year)? [Date]
5.4 Please indicate which groups of children you work with currently. [Multiple choice]
5.5 Do you work any other paid jobs? [Yes/no]
5.6 If you work other paid jobs, please tell us where you work and approximately how many hours per week you work additional jobs. [Open text]
5.7 Do you regularly pay yourself? Think of this as money set aside to pay for you and your family’s needs, not your business. [Multiple choice]
5.8 Which best describes your income from your family home child care business? [Multiple choice]
5.9 Typically, how much do you pay yourself? [Open text for amount & multiple choice for frequency]
5.10 About how many hours do you work a week? [Slider]
5.11 How many months a year do you work? [Multiple choice]
5.12 Home child care providers have many ways of managing benefits typically associated with employment for large companies. For each type of benefit below, please indicate which description best fits how you manage the benefit.
5.12.1 Health Insurance [Multiple choice]
5.12.2 Dental Insurance [Multiple choice]
5.12.3 Vision Insurance [Multiple choice]
5.12.4 Retirement benefits /pension (401K, etc.) [Multiple choice]
5.12.5 Funding for professional development [Multiple choice]
5.12.6 Funding or reimbursement for tuition or other costs for college courses [Multiple choice]
5.12.7 Paid sick leave [Multiple choice]
5.12.8 Paid time off (other than sick leave) [Multiple choice]
5.12.9 Discounted child care [Multiple choice]
5.12.10 Free child care [Multiple choice]
6.1 What led you to work in early care and education? [Open text]
6.2 How long do you plan to remain in your current position? [Multiple choice]
6.3 If you could start over again, would you choose this job? [Multiple choice]
6.4 If you could start over again, would you choose to work in early care and education? [Multiple choice]
6.5 What supports in your program keep you in this job? Please choose all that apply. [Part- and full-time employees and self-employed; multiple choice]
6.6 What supports in your program keep you in this job? Please choose all that apply. [Home-based owners; multiple choice]
6.7 What supports external to your program do you need to stay in this job? Please choose all that apply. [Multiple choice]
6.8 What would encourage and/or make it possible for you to remain in the early care and education field long term? [Open text]
6.9 For each of the below programs, consider you and your family’s personal use. Then pick the best response.
6.9.1 Child Care Assistance (CCA, subsidy) (i.e., do any of your dependents/children qualify and receive CCA to pay for their child care) [Multiple choice]
6.9.2 Medicaid (i.e., Title 19) [Multiple choice]
6.9.3 HAWKI health insurance [Multiple choice]
6.9.4 Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, food stamps) [Multiple choice]
6.9.5 Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) [Multiple choice]
6.9.6 TEACH [Multiple choice]
6.9.7 WAGES [Multiple choice]
6.9.8 Are there other programs (e.g., TANF/cash assistance, rental or energy assistance) that you have applied for or participate in? [Open text]
6.10 Are there barriers to you or your family accessing programs that you would participate in if you could? Please explain. [Open text]
7.1 Is there anything else you would like to tell us about working in early care and education in Iowa? [Open text]