The culture of health in early care and education: Workers' wages, health and health-related job characteristics
Little is known about the health of the 2.2 million early care and education (ECE) workers responsible for the care, well-being, and success of the approximately 10 million children younger than age 6 enrolled in ECE, or the extent to which ECE environments and employers play a role in workers' health. The purpose of this analysis was to describe the health of an ECE worker sample by wage and by job and center characteristics and to begin to explore the relationships between these factors and workers' health. Our data indicate that ECE workers earn low wages and experience poor mental well-being and high rates of food insecurity. Lower-wage workers worked at centers with more children enrolled in subsidy programs and were more likely to work at centers that did not offer health insurance, paid sick leave, or parental or family leave. Policies and programs that raised workers’ wages or mandated the provision of meals to both children and workers could better support teacher health and the quality of ECE for children. Our results suggest that the culture of health in ECE settings and equity-related outcomes could be improved by helping centers provide support and flexibility to teachers (for example, offsetting workers' benefit costs or reducing teacher-to-child ratios to reduce stress) who are managing their own health in the context of demanding work.