By Jocelyn Fischer and Debra Lancaster
While children, parents, and employers have felt the sting of childcare market failures for several decades, deficiencies in the market were made more apparent and were felt more deeply as a result of pandemic-related closures and labor shifts. The Center for Women and Work (CWW) at the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations has collaborated with the New Jersey State Policy Lab to release a comprehensive report describing the state of childcare markets in New Jersey from both a supply- and demand-side perspective. This report includes key findings as well as policy recommendations to bolster support for the state’s childcare market. Some of these key findings include:
- In terms of childcare supply, our analysis indicates that the childcare workforce remains substantially below its pre-pandemic levels. For example, compared to the first quarter of 2020, overall employment in New Jersey recovered by the third quarter of 2021. But the childcare workforce was still just 84% of its pre-pandemic workforce.
- Census data indicate that the need for childcare in the state has increased over time: in New Jersey, the share of children under age six with all available parents in the labor force has increased, from 62.7% of children in 2010 to 69.4% in 2020.
- Among all New Jersey counties, Gloucester County had the highest share of children with all available parents in the labor force in 2020 at 77.7%, followed by Atlantic (76.6%) and Hunterdon (76.4%) counties. Hunterdon County also experienced the largest increase in the share of children with all available parents in the labor force, rising 14.5 percentage points since 2010. Ocean County has the lowest share of children with all available parents in the labor force at just 61.3% in 2020, followed by Passaic (63.7%) and Middlesex (65.5%) counties.
- From April 2021 to May 2022, an average of 24.4% of families with children in New Jersey experienced some type of disruption in their childcare due to the pandemic. Parents in low-income households, and those who are Black, Hispanic, LGBT, and/or single were more likely to indicate they had experienced inaccessible childcare over the span of the pandemic.
- The number of center-based childcare facilities in New Jersey decreased by nearly 26% between 2019 and 2020, from 4,098 centers to 3,035 centers. Home-based providers also decreased by 38% between 2019 and 2020, from 2,349 home-based providers to 1,449. However, center-based childcare centers recovered in 2021, while the number of home-based providers in New Jersey continues to decrease.
- Although women make up 93% of New Jersey’s childcare workers, men in the childcare industry better retained their jobs during the onset of COVID-19 and earned more money than women in the childcare industry.
Ultimately, opportunities to improve the state’s childcare landscape abound. Understanding the needs and preferences of New Jersey’s diverse families and communities is pivotal to achieving efficient and targeted policy solutions. In order to support the state’s current workforce and provide thoughtful care for its future workforce, childcare infrastructure needs a boost.