Friday, September 5, 2008

impact of universal child care

In a recent Journal of Political Economy paper, Michael Baker (Toronto), Jonathan Gruber (MIT), and Kevin Milligan (British Columbia) study the effects of a universal child care program in Quebec. Unsurprisingly, they find that the program significantly increases maternal labor supply--more moms return to work and/or work more after the birth of a child. What's surprising is that the program appears to make children worse off on a variety of dimensions.
...the evidence suggests that children are worse off by measures ranging from aggression to motor and social skills to illness. We also uncover evidence that the new child care program led to more hostile, less consistent parenting, worse parental health, and lower-quality parental relationships.
Why would this be? Does this mean that childcare in general could be causing these affects? Not necessarily. First, they cannot rule out that these negative aspects result from a short-term adjustment process, as families adjust to using childcare. Second, I speculate that universal childcare likely changes the composition of children at daycare centers, which may have similar results as changing the composition of inmates at a juvenile detention center (see the earlier post).

Read the paper


Peter said...

Or could it be hinting towards the importance of the mother in parenting?

chris c. said...

Of course Peter is right; this is another suggestion of the results.