Rutgers report examines ongoing child care challenges in NJ

Matthew Fazelpoor//May 12, 2023//

Child care
Child care

Rutgers report examines ongoing child care challenges in NJ

Matthew Fazelpoor//May 12, 2023//

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A new report from the Rutgers Center for Women and Work, supported by the New Jersey State Policy Lab, finds child care remains scarce for some New Jersey families and that the industry’s infrastructure here has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels.

Released this week, the study – which noted South Jersey faces some of the greatest challenges – included the analysis of more than 10 years of federal and state data by researchers.

Among the toplines findings are:

  • The share of kids under age 6 with all available parents in the labor force rose from 63% in 2010 to 69% in 2020.
  • A quarter of families (24%) experienced a child care disruption during the pandemic, forcing many parents to cut their hours (23%) or quit their job (8%).
  • While center-based child care capacity has recovered, home-based child care capacity remains down, which is especially challenging for immigrants and low-income families.
  • The state’s child care workforce remains substantially below pre-pandemic levels, with Salem County seeing the slowest recovery, followed by Gloucester.
  • Child care workers struggle with low wages, including those with a bachelor’s degree or higher, earning a fraction (33%) of what their counterparts make in the private sector, giving little incentive to remain in the field.


Debra Lancaster, executive director of the Rutgers Center for Women and Work, who co-authored the report, said that accessing and affording high quality child care remains far too challenging for New Jersey families.

“The industry has faced staffing and retention issues for years, and the pandemic made it worse,” she explained. “Without serious public investment that supports equitable access to high quality care and compassionate child care workers for their skills and expertise, we will continue to see instability in the field and families struggling to find care and make ends meet.”

The authors of the report recommended a series of “policy prescriptions” for improving child care supply in the Garden State, including:

  • Improving wages and benefits for child care workers;
  • Revamping care subsidy pay structures;
  • Reducing or providing support for regulatory burdens placed on providers;
  • Boosting the care worker pipeline;
  • Incentivizing education among care providers;
  • Expanding care through employer- and government-sponsored care centers; and
  • Extending paid parental leave programs.


As far as making it easier for families in New Jersey to help pay for child care, recommendations include: streamlining the application process by enabling parents to sign up for child care subsidies when they apply for NJ FamilyCare and NJ SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits; resetting eligibility thresholds so that parents do not lose their subsidies when their income increases by a modest amount; administering the subsidy program by awarding contracts and grants to child care providers, rather than giving vouchers to parents; and considering child care tax credits and publicly provided child care.

“We believe this research provides vital insight into the current state of childcare for families all across New Jersey, as well as valuable policy recommendations going forward,” said Elizabeth Cooner, executive director of the New Jersey State Policy Lab.

The full report is available here.