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Open Access Publications from the University of California

California’s ECE Workforce: What We Know Now and the Data Deficit That Remains


In 2006, to provide an in-depth portrait of the center-based and licensed family child care workforce across the state and regionally, the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment (CSCCE) and the California Child Care Resource and Referral Network conducted the California Early Care and Education Workforce Study. This study built on California’s long history of leadership in early childhood workforce research, which reaches back to the late 1970s. Yet, 12 years after this study, California lags behind a majority of other states when it comes to the status of its workforce data.

The absence of an updated statewide survey or a statewide workforce registry creates numerous challenges to the implementation of evidence-based decision making. Too often, determinations about the workforce are made with scant information, which can lead to deciding that a policy does not work and moving on to developing new initiatives without sufficient or accurate information to assess impact and effectiveness or guide new approaches. Without better data, there is a risk of replicating the very same undetected or undocumented problems that led a previous approach to be deemed ineffective or failing. Additionally, numerous changes in the political, economic, and cultural environment in the past 12 years render the 2006 study severely out of date and underscore the urgency for current and ongoing data to accurately assess the consequences of policy approaches and interventions.

This brief directs stakeholders to three more recent, though not comprehensive, sources of information about the California early childhood workforce: 1) local workforce data sources from three counties; 2) annual federal data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; and 3) California-specific data drawn from the 2012 National Survey of Early Care and Education. Findings from the latter two sources are detailed below.

We caution readers that moving among various datasets on the early childhood workforce can be challenging due to differences in how the population is determined, terminology used to describe members of the workforce, and phrasing of questions. A common challenge that arises is divergent numbers in the estimated size of the early childhood workforce, as we detail in Box 1.

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