Home > Policy & Research > [MPI] Immigrant and Refugee Workers in the Early Childhood Field: Taking a Closer Look

[MPI] Immigrant and Refugee Workers in the Early Childhood Field: Taking a Closer Look

MPI ECEC Report_Release 1As Young Child Population Is Increasingly Diverse in U.S. and Florida, Early Childhood Field Faces Urgent Need to Improve Workforce’s Linguistic & Cultural Competence

Extensive research shows that high-quality early learning experiences are critical to children’s healthy development and academic success. Immigrant-origin children, particularly those who speak a language other than English at home, stand to benefit especially from high-quality early learning experiences—yet are enrolled at lower rates in pre-kindergarten than their peers with U.S.-born parents.

The dramatic growth in young child-population diversity, with a doubling of those with an immigrant parent from 2.9 million in 1990 nationally to 5.8 million currently, has been accompanied by increasing diversity in the ECEC workforce.

Yet, this new report from the Migration Policy Institute’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy finds that immigrants, and the linguistic and cultural diversity they bring to the ECEC workforce, are highly over-represented in the lowest-skilled and lowest-paid sectors of the profession. Though representing nearly one-fifth of the 1.8 million early-childhood workforce nationally, immigrants hold few leadership positions in child-care centers or as pre-kindergarten teachers, and are overwhelmingly concentrated in private home- or family-based programs that are largely in the informal sector. In Florida, immigrants account for nearly 26 percent of the ECEC workforce, with their numbers rising by 258 percent since 1990.

The report also suggests options for increasing the field’s “abysmally” low wages and urges improved data collection on young children’s home languages and Dual Language Learner (DLL) status. “Policymakers have a prime opportunity to achieve two-generation gains through mutually reinforcing policies that set high standards for meeting the needs of young children from immigrant families while also providing educational opportunities that allow immigrant early childhood education workers to advance in the field,” said Maki Park, an MPI policy analyst and a report co-author.