Despite the key role child care workers play in today's families, their jobs pay less than most.

preschool teacher with two children
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A recent Pew Research study found that 46 percent of American households now have two full-time working parents. Clearly, child care workers are essential to the modern family. But a recent look at the pay and benefits these individuals receive is disheartening.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, those who work in child care are among the lowest paid workers in the country, and they rarely receive the benefits (i.e. health insurance) afforded to many other occupations.

The study also found the following:

  • There are currently 1.2 million child care workers in the U.S., including nannies as well as those who work in day care centers, religious organizations, and preschools.
  • Most child care workers are female, and the majority are non-white.
  • They make an average hourly wage of $10.31, which is nearly 40 percent less than the overall median hourly wage ($17), and 23 percent below what workers make in similar occupations.
  • Only 15 percent of workers receive health insurance, and less than 10 percent are eligible for a pension.
  • One in seven workers in the child care industry lives in a family with an income below the official poverty line, and struggles to make ends meet.
  • Many cannot afford to pay for care for their own kids, because between half and all of their annual salary would have to go toward paying for it!

The result of these sobering statistics is that the best candidates to care for our kids are not attracted to the low-paying jobs available to them. It's a scary thought. To add insult to injury, the cost of care is often prohibitive for many families, even if both parents work full-time jobs. Clearly there's a problem with the state of child care in this country. Something needs to change.

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.