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Michigan Early Care and Education Workforce Study

A preschool boy of Hispanic ethnicity sits next to his teacher as she is reading him a book on the classroom floor.
Understanding the professional development needs of educators vital to high-quality ECE outcomes
  • Client
    Michigan Department of Education, Office of Great Start
  • Dates


Michigan needed deeper data on its early care and education workforce.

Research indicates that the knowledge and skills of early educators are the most important ingredients in high-quality early care and education (ECE). Increasingly, policymakers recognize that if ECE is to prepare young children for elementary school and beyond, it is critical to elevate the profession. That enhancement includes improving the professional preparation and ongoing professional learning opportunities available to early educators and the compensation and working conditions of the professionals in the field.


NORC and its research partners explored the characteristics of Michigan’s ECE workforce. 

Recognizing the importance of a thriving ECE workforce, the Michigan Department of Education and Office of Great Start commissioned the Butler Institute for Families, NORC at the University of Chicago, and the University of Colorado, Denver, to study Michigan’s ECE providers. The study examined the qualifications and professional development needs, employment conditions, and well-being of Michigan’s ECE workforce across job roles, settings, geographic locations, and age groups.  

The study surveyed 685 early educators, including 189 administrators, 168 lead teachers, 68 assistant teachers, and 260 family childcare (FCC) providers. Research staff calculated descriptive statistics and cross-tabulations to provide an overview of the characteristics of the sample, aspects of the settings in which those educators work, their perceptions of their work lives and well-being, and perceived barriers to higher education and professional development.


The study found that ECE workers were overwhelmingly white and many struggled financially.

Findings of the 2018 study included: 

  • Across job roles, nearly 90 percent of early educators identified as white.
  • Approximately 79 percent of administrators, 72 percent of lead teachers, 27 percent of assistant teachers, and 34 percent of family childcare providers had at least a bachelor’s degree.
  • Approximately 93 percent of respondents reported receiving at least one public subsidy reserved for low-income individuals and families.
  • Approximately one in five educators said they struggled to pay bills and make ends meet.
  • Annual turnover rates ranged from 13 percent for administrators to 30 percent for lead teachers and 46 percent for assistant teachers.
  • Among administrators, lead teachers, and assistant teachers, approximately two-thirds of respondents indicated better pay as an important factor in job retention.

By identifying the current strengths, gaps, and unmet needs in the field, the study’s findings can help inform the development of policies and infrastructure to enhance the professional lives of the adults who serve Michigan’s youngest children.

Principal Investigator

Principal Research Scientist

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