In 2017 the National Center for Education Statistics revealed that there were approximately 21.36 million children under age six in the United States. These are the kinds of arrangements providing care for these children:
- Parental care only (40.3%)
- Center-based care (29.4%)
- Nonrelative home-based care (10.0%)
- Relative (18.5%)
- Multiple arrangements (1.8%)
Although many nonrelatives caring for children had informal, off-the-books arrangements for being paid, an estimated 692,799 formal child-care establishments were operating in 2019, according to market research group IBISWorld. Most child-care establishments had no employees and almost all of these are run by a sole proprietor. Revenue across the child day care industry reached approximately $57 billion in 2019, following growth of 4 percent over the previous five years.
Occupations in the Industry
Nearly 1.2 million people are employed as child-care workers, providing care directly for young people. More than 25 percent of them are self-employed. Workers averaged around $23,240 per year in 2018. Their low pay reflects their low level of education; more than half have only a high school diploma or less education. Some states require that workers at licensed facilities have a high school diploma or some formal training. Some states also require them to undergo criminal background checks and have immunizations. As of 2019, Head Start required that workers be at least enrolled in a degree or certification program. Of course, many work as nannies or in other unlicensed settings that lack any formal entry requirements.
As universal preschool becomes more common, an increasing number of children will be under the supervision of preschool teachers and their assistants. By definition, these workers are engaged in instruction, tutoring, and similar activities rather than in providing other care services such as feeding, but about 298,430 preschool teachers and about 130,700 teacher assistants were employed in the child day-care industry in 2018. This is a better-educated group than the child-care workers because they tend to work in settings with stricter requirements for employment. Also, many of the preschool teachers and even a few of the teacher assistants may hold an associate's or bachelor's degree because they originally intended to teach in kindergarten. The teachers usually need only an associate's degree, and a high school diploma is usually the only requirement for teacher assistants.
Directors of preschools and child-care centers are more likely to fall under state licensing requirements than the workers whom they supervise. They may be required to have an associate's or bachelor's degree, and in some states certification by the Council for Professional Recognition or another professional association may be needed. The knowledge and skills represented by these credentials equip the director to be able to train and supervise teachers and child-care workers, establish policies and programs, adhere to state regulations for the facility, develop budgets, and communicate with parents. About 39,680 education administrators of preschool and child-care centers are employed in this industry, according to the Department of Labor.
Child-care centers also employ receptionists, secretaries, clerks, and other office workers. Some of the larger facilities employ food service workers and bus drivers.
This is a highly fragmented industry. According to a report from The Business Research Company, in 2018 the industry's leading 10 companies accounted for almost 2 percent of the market. The giants of this industry include KinderCare Education, Bright Horizons Family Solutions, Goddard Systems, Primrose Schools, and Learning Care Group. Collectively, they operate hundreds of centers, including both company-owned and franchised locations.
In the 2018 fiscal year, Head Start had about 265,000 workers, with about half of them providing care to children. These workers were aided by more than 1 million adult volunteers, of which 739,000 were parents of Head Start children. Of the center-based preschool teachers, 72 percent held a bachelor's degree in early childhood education or a related field, and 95 percent held an associate's or higher in one of these fields.