San Mateo County, CA — A recently released child care needs assessment found that San Mateo County is experiencing a child care shortage, especially of affordable child care, that is expected to grow over the next ten years. According to the study, the labor shortage has been further exacerbated by low wages in the field.

The San Mateo County Child Care Partnership Council, San Mateo County Office of Education, and San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools commissioned the needs assessment, which was conducted by Brion Economics, Inc. and included surveys of the child care workforce and families.

As of 2022, the demand for child care spaces in San Mateo County far outstripped the supply, with 29 percent of demand going unmet. By 2032, unmet demand is expected to grow to 34 percent. This mismatch between supply and demand is amplified for infant and toddler care, with 66 percent of demand going unmet in 2022. Not surprisingly, 73 percent of survey respondents reported they have turned down work due to a lack of child care, particularly affordable child care, which 65 percent said was difficult to find.

These results are even more extreme for subsidized child care. According to the study, 79 percent of the need for subsidized care is not being met. Again, with infants and toddlers, the need is particularly critical, with 94 percent of the demand for care unmet. As a result, parents with the greatest financial need to work and who also require child care in order to participate in the workforce are underserved in the county.

The study found that the child care workforce shortage is the key driver behind the gap in child care supply and demand. In 2022, an additional 2,800 staff members would have been needed to meet demand. Low wages in the field and a tight labor market have made it difficult to fill these positions. Wages were found to range from $20/hour for teacher aides to $31/hour for program directors, with many workers at family child care homes making even less. Given that a living wage in San Mateo County is $36-$52 per hour, child care sector wages would need to increase 65-127 percent or up to $207 million per year to meet that level.

According to the study, most child care providers do not receive enough income from tuition (and State subsidies, where applicable) to provide all the goods, supplies, and wages needed to offer quality care. Current State reimbursement rates do not cover the true cost of care and represent only 33-41 percent of the cost of care for infants, toddlers, and preschool-age children in family child care homes and 57-73 percent for those in center-based care. 

“This study gives us the data we need to both understand the scope of the problem and take action to address the critical shortage in child care spaces for the children of San Mateo County,” shared San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools Nancy Magee. “Informed by the study, we have begun to convene key stakeholders to generate actionable goals to grow the child care workforce. We are also sharing this data with local, state, and federal elected officials and philanthropic partners as part of our efforts to advocate for increased investments in the child care workforce and affordable child care for families.”

To review the results of the study, please visit the San Mateo County Office of Education website

Please direct any questions about the study to Sarah Kinahan, Coordinator, Child Care Partnership Council, at


The San Mateo County Office of Education is committed to ensuring excellence and equity in education by inspiring students, investing in teachers, invigorating leaders, and involving communities.


Released January 13, 2022