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Finding a Job Oasis in America’s Child Care Desert

Child-care workers can find higher demand for jobs, and higher wages, in these 66 cities, located in 22 states

 

The demand for reliable, quality child care professionals is significant and growing. Caring for children can be a fulfilling and rewarding career path for a diverse workforce. It can provide flexible working hours for students looking to build resumes and women looking to re-enter the workforce. For career caregivers, this line of work can provide a steady stream of income at living wages. Although researchers say automation will threaten nearly half of U.S. jobs over the next 20 years, caregiving will not be one of them.

There’s just one problem: In the here and now, more than half of Americans live in what’s known as a “child care desert.”

Across the country, parents of every economic and ethnic background are struggling to find affordable, quality care for their children — or, in many instances, any child care at all. These shortages affect parents in rural areas and big cities, and in middle class suburbs as well as poor neighborhoods. Child Care Aware and the Center for American Progress (CAP) coined the phrase child care deserts to describe an area where demand outpaces supply so acutely that children outnumber licensed child care slots by at least three to one. In the 22 states CAP examined in 2017, every single state suffered from at least some degree of child care shortage, ranging from North Carolina and Minnesota, where about a quarter of the population lives in a child care desert, to states like California and New York, where that number is above 60 percent.

But within those child care deserts, could there be a silver lining for in-home child care providers? The tenets of supply and demand suggest that we should see opportunity for professional nannies and sitters in areas where the need for child care is the highest. So Care.com analyzed CAP’s top child care desert states—as well as internal Care.com data—to look for a “job oasis” within the desert: A place where in-home child care workers can find a surplus of jobs and higher pay rates. Below, for each of the 22 child care desert states analyzed by CAP, we’ve identified the top three “job oasis” cities: The places where child care providers can flourish. They range from large urban metros—such as Denver and New York City—to mid-size cities like Pittsburgh, PA and Baltimore, MD, to suburbs like Irvine, CA and Naperville, IL. In 25 of the job-oasis cities we identified, the hourly rate is more than $15 per hour. And in nine of these job-oasis cities—including Atlanta, GA, and Austin, TX—the average wage for child-care workers is double the minimum wage for that city or state.

Even though the conditions are promising, the cities listed below all desperately need more qualified child care providers to enter the profession. And that’s important, because without more caregivers, we all suffer. As it stands now, about a third of American parents find it difficult to secure care for their children. The unavailability of child care has been found to have dramatic social consequences: Studies have found that lack of access to child care is keeping mothers out of the workforce, causing GDP growth to stagnate, and pushing working families out of the middle class. As unemployment rates have dropped, employers are increasingly looking at child care as a necessity for attracting and retaining top-quality talent.

How To Find a Job Oasis in a Child Care Desert

To find a “job oasis,” we started with CAP’s map of child care desert states, ranked in order of which states have the highest percentage of their population living in a child care desert. Then, for each state, we analyzed Care.com data to find the cities with the highest demand for child care providers, the highest average hourly rate for child care providers (relative to that city’s median household income), and the fastest annual growth in pay. The city in each state that offers the highest combination of demand and opportunity is a “job oasis”: The best place to find a job as an in-home caregiver.

Below, we’re displaying the top three cities in each state, alongside the average hourly rate child caregivers can earn. (Expanded data analysis for each city is available on request; contact Care.com for more.) Clicking on the name of the city leads to examples of the jobs available on Care.com.

1. California (62 percent of population lives in a child care desert)

California Rank

City

Hourly Rate

1

Fremont

$16.57

2

Sunnyvale

$17.77

3

Irvine

$15.51

 

2. New York (61 percent of population lives in a child care desert)

New York Rank

City

Hourly Rate

1

New York

$18.85

2

Albany

$15.71

3

Buffalo

$15.20

 

3. Illinois (59 percent of population lives in a child care desert)

Illinois Rank

City

Hourly Rate

1

Springfield

$17.11

2

Aurora

$14.70

3

Naperville

$14.67

 

4. Pennsylvania (59 percent of population lives in a child care desert)

Pennsylvania Rank

City

Hourly Rate

1

Harrisburg

$14.46

2

Allentown

$14.91

3

Pittsburgh

$15.41

 

5. Missouri (55 percent of population lives in a child care desert)

Missouri Rank

City

Hourly Rate

1

Saint Louis

$15.10

2

Kansas City

$14.66

3

Saint Charles

$14.17

 

6. Kentucky (50 percent of population lives in a child care desert)

Kentucky Rank

City

Hourly Rate

1

Louisville

$14.81

2

Lexington

$14.20

3

Bowling Green

$14.64

 

7. Rhode Island (50 percent of population lives in a child care desert)

Rhode Island Rank

City

Hourly Rate

1

Providence*

$16.22

 

8. Arizona (48 percent of population lives in a child care desert)

Arizona Rank

City

Hourly Rate

1

Phoenix

$15.31

2

Scottsdale

$15.49

3

Gilbert

$14.08

 

9. New Jersey (48 percent of population lives in a child care desert)

New Jersey Rank

City

Hourly Rate

1

Edison

$16.89

2

Newark

$15.74

3

Jersey City

$16.48

 

10. Texas (48 percent of population lives in a child care desert)

Texas Rank

City

Hourly Rate

1

Austin

$16.10

2

Frisco

$14.72

3

Dallas

$15.66

 

11. South Dakota (47 percent of population lives in a child care desert)

South Dakota Rank

City

Hourly Rate

1

Sioux Falls

$14.60

 

12. South Carolina (47 percent of population lives in a child care desert)

South Carolina Rank

City

Hourly Rate

1

Greenville

$14.14

2

Spartanburg

$14.02

3

Summerville

$13.84

 

13. Michigan (46 percent of population lives in a child care desert)

Michigan Rank

City

Hourly Rate

1

Ann Arbor

$15.50

2

Saginaw

$15.83

3

Lansing

$14.03

 

14. Georgia (45 percent of population lives in a child care desert)

Georgia Rank

City

Hourly Rate

1

Atlanta

$16.20

2

Alpharetta

$15.53

3

Duluth

$14.68

 

15. Connecticut (44 percent of population lives in a child care desert)

Connecticut Rank

City

Hourly Rate

1

Hartford

$19.05

2

New Haven

$16.70

3

Waterbury

$14.83

 

16. Mississippi (41 percent of population lives in a child care desert)

Mississippi Rank

City

Hourly Rate

1

Jackson*

$16.27

 

17. Florida (38 percent of population lives in a child care desert)

Florida Rank

City

Hourly Rate

1

Pensacola

$15.32

2

Hialeah

$16.83

3

Sarasota

$15.49

 

18. Maryland (35 percent of population lives in a child care desert)

Maryland Rank

City

Hourly Rate

1

Baltimore

$16.36

2

Rockville

$16.20

3

Laurel

$15.28

 

19. Colorado (30 percent of population lives in a child care desert)

Colorado Rank

City

Hourly Rate

1

Arvada

$15.45

2

Denver

$15.94

3

Littleton

$15.53

 

20. Ohio (27 percent of population lives in a child care desert)

Ohio Rank

City

Hourly Rate

1

Columbus

$14.90

2

Cleveland

$14.89

3

Dayton

$13.85

 

21. Minnesota (26 percent of population lives in a child care desert)

Minnesota Rank

City

Hourly Rate

1

Duluth

$15.99

2

Rochester

$14.77

3

Saint Paul

$14.94

 

22. North Carolina (25 percent of population lives in a child care desert)

North Carolina Rank

City

Hourly Rate

1

Cary

$14.59

2

Winston Salem

$14.48

3

Durham

$15.11

Data sources: Center for American Progress, “Mapping America’s Child Care Deserts” (2017) and “Child Care Deserts: An Analysis of Child Care Centers By Zip Code in 8 States” (2016); Care.com internal data (2017).

Methodology

Using the Center for American Progress’s Care Desert analysis, we take the top 20 child-care desert states and sort by the percentage of population who live in an urban childcare desert. Using these states, we then use proprietary Care.com data on child-care jobs and child-care providers to score cities as explained below.

Scoring methodology: To calculate the within-state rankings for areas most in need of providers, we start with cities whose population exceeds 100,000. For each of these cities, we calculate the providers-to-jobs ratio based on all 2017 active child-care providers and recurring childcare jobs posts on Care.com; the average hourly wage for recurring job posts on Care.com in 2017, relative to median income (taken from Census Bureau); and the percent change in those Care.com average hourly wages from 2016 to 2017. We then normalize these variables and take a weighted average. The sitters-to-job-post ratio is included negatively and as a proxy for demand, where a smaller ratio indicates more need of child-care providers. The higher the score, the better/more in need the city is for/of caregivers.

*Caveats: There are no cities with more than 100,000 residents in Vermont, so it was excluded from this analysis. Additionally, Mississippi, South Dakota, and Rhode Island each only have one city with more than 100,000 residents, so these are included, but not sorted relative to any other cities in these states.

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