Kentucky child care issues drive women from workforce: Look at numbers



A hiring sign is posted outside the Trinity House Christian Childcare campus on Greenwood Avenue. March 28, 2022

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Tens of thousands of Kentucky mothers leaving the workforce because of child care issues.

Child care workers receiving pay far below the median wage in Kentucky. 

Roughly half of Bluegrass State child care centers closing over the past decade.

About 40% of working-age Kentuckians who were not working in 2021 reported they couldn’t because of care responsibilities, according to Metro United Way. 

No matter which angle you take, the numbers show a social and economic crisis facing employers and employees alike.

More:How lack of affordable child care threatens Kentucky’s workforce participation and economy

Hover over these graphics for more details: 

Child care capacity declining

Louisville lost 45% of its child care capacity from 2013-20, according to Metro United Way data.

Since March 2020, the city lost an additional 9%. 

The numbers statewide are just as grim. Between July 2012 and July 2021, Kentucky had a net loss of 1,729 child care centers, or a 46% decline, according to the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, a progressive think tank.

Drop in Kentucky women’s workforce participation 

Women’s workforce participation — the percentage of the 16-year-old and older population that are either employed or unemployed but seeking work — in Kentucky had declined about 7% from 2000 (57.9%) to 2020 (51.4%), a trend made worse when COVID-19 hit. 

Citing care issues and school closings, about 100,000 Kentucky women have had to leave the workforce during the pandemic, according to Metro United Way.

The Louisville nonprofit found that in 2021, 40% of working-age people in the state reported care challenges as reasons they could not work.

Low child care wages make competition difficult

According to the latest available data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics,

the average wage for child care workers in the Louisville area is $11.30 per hour — a wage that can’t compete with many other employers.

For context: The median wage in the Louisville $18.63 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Child care providers across the nation are overwhelmingly women — 92%, according to Data USA. The average female child care worker makes a $16,421 annual salary; the men in the industry on average make $16,705.

As a result, child care centers have lost employees during the pandemic. 

The U.S. wage gap is a factor 

When it comes to deciding who leaves the workforce to care for a child, the lower-earner makes sense. Because of the wage gap, that is most often women, with women of color especially impacted. 

In 2021, if a white man made $1, a white women made 79 cents, while Black women made 64 cents and Hispanic women made 57, according to the Center for American Progress. 

As the first year of the pandemic came to a close, Black women and Latinas had higher rates of unemployment as women lost thousands of jobs. Men gained 16,000 while women overall lost 156,000

Contact Ben Tobin at and 502-377-5675 or follow on Twitter @Ben__Tobin. Reach Sarah Ladd at or follow her on Twitter @ladd_sarah. 


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