Same Program, Different Outcomes: Understanding Differential Effects from Access to Free, High-Quality Early Care

Source: Juan Chaparro, Aaron Sojourner, IZA Discussion Paper, IZA DP No. 9552, December 2015

From the blog post:
Human development starts early, and neuroscientists point to the first three years of brain development as especially consequential. Foundations for academic and social success later in life are created through the experiences in children’s earliest years.

Parents, relatives and many other non-relatives are responsible for the upbringing of children in modern societies. Public policy plays a crucial role in the process, either through the regulation of market-based care or through the direct provision of subsidized child care services. It is critical to understand the constraints and the incentives faced by families to choose a certain combination of caregivers for their young children.

There is little evidence available on how public policies that expand access to early care services during the first 36 months of life affect household behavior and consequently dictate effects on child development. A recent IZA discussion paper by Juan Chaparro and Aaron Sojourner, from the University of Minnesota, explores this issue using data from the Infant Health and Development Program (IHDP)…..

….In conclusion, the paper offers new evidence that subsidies for high-quality early care improve child development especially among children in families with tight budget constraints due to low earning power. Biological factors and individual preferences appear much less important in driving the differences. Policies that promote the access to early childcare services must take into account the quality of the services provided and how different types of households will reallocate their own resources in response. Potential positive effects of any intervention could be augmented or eliminated by how families react to them….