Early Ed Leadership & Innovation

We train frontline early educators and child care business owners in entrepreneurial leadership, and research ways to support them at scale

Institute Receives Federal Grant to Study Early Education Workforce Turnover and Retention


The Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation at UMass Boston (IEELI) is pleased to announce that it has been awarded a $100,000 grant from the Administration for Children and Families of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The grant will fund research into the factors that contribute to turnover within the early care and education (ECE) workforce. The research will also examine ways to retain early educators in the workforce.

High rates of workforce turnover are an urgent problem within the ECE field. They contribute to the ECE labor shortage, create organizational instability by disrupting the scheduling and management of programs and damaging employee morale, and increase financial costs to programs. These factors lower the overall quality of programs and services and undermine the social-emotional learning and language development of very young children. Although the problems associated with ECE workforce turnover have been well-documented over the past 40 years, very little evidence exists for what drives ECE workforce turnover.

“Low salary and benefits are often cited as the primary reasons that early educators look for new jobs within the field or leave it altogether. But it’s not enough to point to low pay as the problem when rates of compensation are due to systematic barriers and deep-rooted biases toward work labeled feminine and labor performed by women, especially women of color,” said IEELI Director of Research Sogntian Zeng, PhD, who will be leading the study. “This study will add important new knowledge to our understanding of how racial and social justice factors contribute to ECE workforce turnover. We hope that our findings can eventually inform policy and advocacy efforts around building a more equitable system of compensation in the field.”

Titled “Who is Looking for New Jobs? The Characteristics of Teacher Turnover and Factors that Contribute to Workforce Retention,” the study will examine information from the 2019 National Survey of Early Childhood Education dataset. The sample of 5,192 classroom-assigned, center-based early educators working with children aged five and under includes the personal characteristics of teachers, whether they intend to seek new jobs, their current wages/compensation, and their experiences of job stress.

“A better understanding of the personal and professional factors that contribute to ECE workforce turnover will help us create a more accurate and nuanced portrait of what causes early educators to leave and what can support efforts to retain them,” said Anne Douglass, PhD, IEELI Executive Director and the study’s co-investigator. “We fully expect that our findings will offer valuable information to inform local, state, and national policies to sustainably cultivate, support, and retain a high-quality racially and linguistically diverse ECE workforce. We’re grateful to the Administration for Children and Families for supporting this timely research.”

The research project is projected to be completed in three stages, with data preparation running through December 2022. Data analysis will take place from December 2022 through July 2023. Manuscript production and publication and sharing of study findings will take place May 2023–March 2024.

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