Examining Regional Differences in the Nebraska Early Care and Education Workforce

Research BriefEarly Childhood WorkforceMar 31 2020

A strong early care and education (ECE) workforce is critical to providing quality care and education for young children. Quality early care and education is essential for young children because it prepares them for success later in life by facilitating social and emotional learning and building cognitive skills. By providing parents with the opportunity to access reliable care for their children, the ECE workforce also enables these parents to earn an income to support their family and the U.S. economy.

Despite the ECE workforce’s importance to young children and their families, teachers and caregivers across the country face challenges such as low wages, minimal benefits, and a lack of professional/career support (Whitebook, McLean, Austin, & Edwards, 2018). Research has linked these challenges to high rates of staff turnover in ECE centers and increased stress and anxiety among ECE teachers and caregivers—which some findings suggest may affect the quality of care children receive (Smith & Lawrence, 2019). While there is evidence that ECE teachers and caregivers share common challenges, it is not clear whether their challenges differ by geographic location. That is, are there any regional characteristics that may affect the ECE workforce differentially?

To better understand the pressures facing the ECE workforce and whether geographic location of the ECE workforce might be associated with variations in ECE workforce outcomes related to well-being, Child Trends examined the Nebraska ECE workforce using data from a comprehensive statewide ECE workforce survey; for this study, Child Trends partnered with the Buffett Early Childhood Institute at the University of Nebraska.

The purpose of this brief is to examine characteristics of the ECE workforce to see whether they vary regionally across the state of Nebraska. Specifically, this brief addresses two main questions:

  1. Does the ECE workforce in Nebraska vary by region with respect to what teachers and caregivers report about their well-being, the economic pressures they face, and their education levels?
  2. What contextual factors might be contributing to variation in the characteristics of well-being, economic pressures, and education levels within the ECE workforce across Nebraska?