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Child Care Expansion Takes a Toll on Poorly Paid Workers

While the scramble to find affordable child care has drawn a lot of attention, prompting President Obama to label it “a must-have” economic priority, the struggles of the workers — mostly women — who provide that care have not.

Yet the fortunes of both are inextricably intertwined. “You can’t separate the quality of children’s experiences from the knowledge, skills and well-being of early educators,” said Marcy Whitebook, director of the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at the University of California, Berkeley.

About two million caregivers look after 12 million children from newborns to 5-year-olds, and they are among the lowest-paid workers in the country, sometimes earning little more than minimum wage, said Ms. Whitebook, who is an author of a state-by-state comparison of the early-child-care work force that was released last week. Caregivers also get few benefits and scattershot training, and they are subject to a tangle of requirements and regulations that can vary from one program to the next.