Child Care Workers and Questions Never Asked

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There’s that phrase again, in the following Providence Journal article by Linda Borg (emphasis added):

Research has shown that children who attend high-quality early childhood programs are more successful in school, repeat grades less often and have higher graduation rates. Children from low-income families lag 18 months behind their more entitled peers in language development.

What research?  And what specifically did it show? Because I’ve seen research show the opposite. From this unsourced paragraph, I’d say the finding was probably more of a correlation of household income with both preschool and better school results.

The embedded assumptions are much deeper than research findings, though.  Consider:

Rhode Island and Maine are the only states in New England that require preschool teachers to have a bachelor’s degree. A preschool teacher typically works in a school or daycare center and promotes social and emotional learning. A childcare worker provides care rather than early childhood education.

“Currently, a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education occupies the dubious distinction of the college major with the lowest projected lifetime earnings,” according to the study.

Well, maybe some significant portion of the jobs that adults with such degrees take really don’t require the expensive credentials.  Or maybe the pay for the high end of the degree (e.g., public school elementary school teacher) is artificially high, which sends a distorted signal to workers that the market needs more such professionals, who then find that they can’t get the work they want because there aren’t enough jobs and therefore flood the lower-pay end of their profession and drive those wages down even more (making it even more valuable to gain one of the artificially over-paid jobs).

We really, really have to break the pattern of implementing public policy based on feelings and then trying to patch the leaks with subsidies and mandates when our meddling distorts the market.  Prices (including wages) are just signals.  If “childcare workers are among the lowest-paid workers in the country,” we have to figure out what signal that fact is sending us and, if it’s not healthy, figure out how to change that.  Otherwise we’ll harm more people than we help every time.



  • Mike678

    “From this unsourced paragraph, I’d say the finding was probably more of a correlation of household income with both preschool and better school results.”

    Spot on–even educators acknowledge that household income is the best indicator of student performance–and overall school rating (in general). Note that teachers are a lesser factor, but that fact doesn’t meet the narrative.

    No amount of pre-K or any other gov’t program can cover for a lack of parental caring and effort.

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