Exploring the Effects of Wage on the Culture of Health in Early Childhood Education Centers

Project Summary: 

Investigators are evaluating how wage and wage changes might affect the culture of health in early childhood education (ECE) settings —a setting typically characterized by low wages. The researchers are examining how changes to state and city minimum wages affect the health of ECE providers, and how ECE provider health relates to the quality and healthfulness of the ECE environment. The study is designed to compare minimum wage changes over time in Seattle, WA, and South King County, WA, to the control city, Austin, TX. Results will provide insights about how labor regulations relate to health and health-promoting behaviors, particularly minimum wage, and a better understanding of how investing in ECE and the ECE workforce might influence the health of the next generation.

Outcomes & Methodology:

Natural experiment


Using baseline data from an ongoing study, Exploring the Effects of Wage on the Culture of Health in Early Childhood Education Centers, Jennifer Otten of the University of Washington and coauthors found that ECE teachers earned low wages, experienced poor mental well-being, and lacked access to enough food for an active and healthy life. Lower wage teachers were more likely to work at centers that did not offer health insurance, paid sick leave, or parental or family leave. Study authors suggest health and equity-related outcomes could be improved by helping centers provide more support and flexibility to teachers (for example, offsetting workers’ benefit costs or reducing teacher-to-child ratios to reduce stress).

Principal Investigators: 

Jennifer Otten, PhD, RD

Grant Start Date: 
April 2017
Award Amount & Duration: 

$729,500 & 36 months