Data Snapshot

Estimated Size of the California ECE Workforce

The Center for the Study of Child Care Employment (CSCCE) is eager to share results from the 2020 California Early Care & Education (ECE) Workforce Study, the state’s first comprehensive early childhood workforce study in 15 years.

In the midst of a global pandemic that placed extraordinary demands on child care providers, more than 7,500 early educators throughout California generously gave their time to share their experiences. 

From October through December 2020, we surveyed representative samples of approximately 2,000 center administrators and 3,000 home-based family child care (FCC) providers, as well as non-probability samples of about 2,500 center-based teaching staff members and 280 transitional kindergarten teachers. 

Each survey included approximately 100 questions, resulting in a set of comprehensive workforce data that includes program characteristics, characteristics of children served, program staffing, workforce demographics (including age, gender, race and ethnicity, education, experience, tenure, compensation), as well as information on economic well-being, work environment, and the impact of COVID-19. In this data snapshot, we estimate the number of educators in center- and home-based programs in California.

Providers speak

The pandemic has exacerbated long-standing staffing challenges.

“I am really working hard to get my other employees back to work ASAP… Also for the rest of the children that are enrolled to come back. Times are hard and COVID-19 hit us hard.”

Family child care provider

“Staffing for teaching assistants, especially part-time, is challenging. We currently have five vacancies that have existed for over a year. It was seven, and we have hired two in the past year. There are often not enough applicants, or applicants we recommend decline the position.”

Center director

“Even before I was furloughed, when I was being paid well above the average for early childhood teachers, it was tough–everyone at my center either has a second job if they can find the energy, or is subsidized by a spouse, parent, or government assistance. This is a terribly unjust situation, and of course we have a teacher shortage.”

Center-based teacher

Table 1

table 2


To calculate the estimated size of the workforce, we derived an average number of paid teaching staff per program by region and facility type, based on data reported from a statewide representative sample of center directors and family child care providers through the Workforce Study. A weighted total was calculated using the total number of programs from data provided by the California Child Care Resource & Referral Network for centers and FCCs in 2019. Data were weighted to adjust for unequal response rates. 

Various data sources show ongoing fluctuations in the workforce size. The current size of the workforce may be somewhat below our estimate. For month-by-month updates on the national size of the workforce, visit our Bureau of Labor Statistics tracker.

Regional Map of California


Suggested Citation

Kim, Y., Powell, A. & Montoya, E. (2021). Estimated Size of the California ECE Workforce, Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, University of California, Berkeley.


The 2020 California Early Care and Education Workforce Study is a multi-year project generously supported by First 5 California, the California Department of Education, the Heising-Simons Foundation, and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and implemented in partnership with the California Child Care Resource & Referral Network.