Monday, May 25, 2015

Interesting Comparison

Maybe it’s because I’ve written a few essays about wages this month that information about babysitting caught my attention.  I first heard it as one of those closing thoughts after the radio news and got home to look it up.  Sure enough I found the source ( and the average babysitting rate in the US is about $13.50 per hour, using the latest reported numbers for 2014, and higher in many larger cities.  No only that, it has grown by 28% in the last five years!

Having had some experience in the field many years ago when the pay was considerably less (but probably comparable when adjusted for inflation), I knew that this is pretty good pay to watch someone else’s one, two or three kids in their own house, get them to bed on time and spend the remaining hours watching television and possibly checking out someone else’s refrigerator and pantry for snacks.

This was not the first thing that came to mind, however.  Instead I asked myself, “How does this compare to the pay of childcare workers who usually are expected to have a higher level of experience and are expected to entertain and often educate wide awake children in a less familiar environment while meeting a slew of government regulations?”  I haven’t heard much about the plight of these workers lately and thought perhaps they were doing better.

I didn’t wonder for long.  The US Bureau of Labor Statistics came to the rescue.  “The median hourly wage for childcare workers in the US was $9.38 per hour in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $7.85 per hour, and the top 10 percent earned more than $14.19.”  Comparing that to the average babysitter number in 2012, $12.02 per hour, it looks like they are somewhat behind.

How comparable is the workload?  A couple of sources gave a rough idea of state requirements.  In North Carolina the limit is a ratio of 1:5 caregivers for infants and 1:10 for 2 year olds.  In Colorado the ratio is 1:5 for children up to 3 years of age.  So in some states they can be responsible for up to 10 children hopping around (possibly having to simultaneously put up with irritating bosses or coworkers) and still get paid less on average than the babysitter sitting on the couch on Saturday night texting another babysitter on another couch while both keep one ear open for kids.  Where’s the justice in that?

This is just an observation.  Perhaps no conclusion can fairly be drawn except that relative pay does not always reflect relative contribution to society.  People love to point out that teachers earn less than professional athletes, and that doesn’t seem right.  What is right?  In many cases nobody really knows.

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