Child care teachers support young children's learning and development and parents’ ability to work. However, they earn far less and turn over at far higher rates than K–12 teachers. COVID-19 exacerbated staffing challenges, and the child care workforce was 5.3 percent smaller in January 2023 than in January 2020. While low compensation likely drives turnover in early childhood education, there is relatively little large-scale evidence on the link between compensation and staffing challenges. We summarize the limited pre-pandemic evidence and use pandemic-era data from 90 percent of publicly funded child care centers in Louisiana to describe the relationship between sites’ compensation and staffing challenges. In October 2022, 15 percent of centers’ lead teacher positions were unfilled—nearly quadruple the 4 percent national vacancy rate for public school teachers. Of centers with any vacancies or hires in the past six months, 65 percent turned families away and 84 percent hired less-experienced or -qualified teachers than desired due to staffing challenges. Centers with higher wages were significantly less likely to report staffing challenges, turn families away, and hire less-experienced teachers, after controlling for center characteristics and region. Our findings and prior evidence suggest that wage increases are promising for stabilizing the child care workforce.

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