The Initial Economic Impact of COVID-19 On South Carolina’s Child Care Sector: survey report

Publication Summary:

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, two-thirds of young children lived in homes where all available
parents worked, making child care a necessity.1 Forty-two percent of families, however, live in a
child care desert. That figure is worse for rural communities, in which half of South Carolina’s
families live in a child care desert.2


The core reasons for this market failure are simple enough: safe and high-quality child care is expensive to provide, and many young families would struggle to make ends meet even without those costs. The results are that wages for early education teachers are suppressed and providers are financially fragile. The average early education teacher is paid $21,000 per year in South Carolina, while a first-year public school kindergarten teacher earns between $35,000 and $40,000 per year.3 Families cannot afford to make up the cost differences of retaining teachers in this environment, leading to a decline in the number of providers over the last decade.4


In 2018, in order to begin addressing this shortfall in providers, the federal government nearly doubled its investment in early care and education through a program called the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG).5 The CCDBG has, since 2018, provided an additional $40 million in recurring annual funding to South Carolina to assist in the provision of early care and education for the children of working families.6 Rather than having the intended effect of increasing the number of providers and families served, however, the number of working families who received support for early care and education for their children actually decreased from 22,641 in 2017 to 20,474 in 2019.7


It was in this context that we entered the pandemic.

Author(s): Megan Carolan, Director of Policy Research
Publication Date: May 2020
Publication Type: Policy Brief
Publication Topic: Early Learning & Care
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