Stronger Workforce

Why Are Early Education and Care Wages So Low?: A Critical Guide to Common Explanations

Common explanations for low wages for early education and care work are inadequate and misleading. This essay, written by an economist, seeks to clarify for early education and care advocates the reasoning –  – and the fallacies –  – underlying these explanations.

  • Economists’ argument concerning human capital erroneously assumes that early education and care is low-skill work.
  • Economists’ notion of compensating wage differentials may explain why an individual might take a low-paying job, but cannot explain why the wage for a whole occupation is low.
  • If economists’ crowding explanation were correct, one should see too many people wanting to work in early education and care.
  • The idea that low wages protect children by warding off money-motivated workers is based on untenable assumptions about motivations, responsibilities, and opportunity costs.
  • The notion that wages must be low for early education and care to remain affordable for parents depends on excessively individualistic reasoning.

Campaigns for higher wages for early education and care workers can point out that most counter-arguments come from distorted understanding of the nature of work and care, and can seek to correct these by appropriately valuing care, children, and early education and care skills.