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Great expectations, but how to achieve them? Explaining patterns of inequality in childcare use across 31 developed countries

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  • Wim Van Lancker
  • Joris Ghysels

Abstract

Childcare services are increasingly regarded as a major policy lever to mitigate social inequalities. Such services are believed to be effective in reducing poverty and increasing employment rates by allowing both parents to engage in paid employment, as well as to benefit the cognitive and non-cognitive development of young children. This holds in particular for young children from disadvantaged backgrounds, enhancing their future success in education and in the labour market. However, recent studies have shown that the use of formal childcare services is socially stratified, i.e. higher-income families or families with a high-educated mother use childcare services to a much larger extent than lower-income families or families with a low-skilled mother. Due to this social gap in childcare use, government investment in childcare could fail to live up to its inequality-reducing potential or, worse still, may actually exacerbate rather than mitigate social inequalities. Drawing on the comparative social policy literature, this article explores, for the first time, the determinants of inequalities in childcare coverage for a broad set of countries. Our results contribute to a proper understanding of the mechanisms driving inequality in childcare service use, which is crucial to the future of childcare services as an effective policy instrument to mitigate social inequalities in early life.

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Paper provided by Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp in its series Working Papers with number 1305.

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Date of creation: Dec 2013
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Handle: RePEc:hdl:wpaper:1305

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Web page: http://www.centreforsocialpolicy.eu
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Keywords: childcare; comparative; ECEC; Education; inequality; welfare state;

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  1. Joris Ghysels & Evelien Van Vlasselaer, 2008. "Child Well-being in Flanders: A Multidimensional Account," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 89(2), pages 283-304, November.
  2. Daniela Del Boca & Daniela Vuri, 2007. "The mismatch between employment and child care in Italy: the impact of rationing," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 20(4), pages 805-832, October.
  3. Wrohlich, Katharina, 2006. "Labor Supply and Child Care Choices in a Rationed Child Care Market," IZA Discussion Papers 2053, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Magnuson, Katherine A. & Ruhm, Christopher & Waldfogel, Jane, 2007. "Does prekindergarten improve school preparation and performance?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 33-51, February.
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  6. Joris Ghysels & Wim Van Lancker, 2010. "The unequal benefits of family activation: an analysis of the social distribution of family policy among families with young children," Working Papers 1008, Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp.
  7. Mackenbach, Johan P. & Kunst, Anton E., 1997. "Measuring the magnitude of socio-economic inequalities in health: An overview of available measures illustrated with two examples from Europe," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 44(6), pages 757-771, March.
  8. Danièle Meulders & Jérôme De Henau & Sile Padraigin O'Dorchai, 2007. "Making time for working parents: comparing public childcare provision," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/7708, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  9. Nicole M Fortin, 2005. "Gender Role Attitudes and the Labour-market Outcomes of Women across OECD Countries," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 21(3), pages 416-438, Autumn.
  10. Connelly, Rachel, 1992. "The Effect of Child Care Costs on Married Women's Labor Force Participation," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 74(1), pages 83-90, February.
  11. Wim Van Lancker & Joris Ghysels, 2011. "Who reaps the benefits? The social distribution of public childcare in Sweden and Flanders," Working Papers 1106, Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp.
  12. Wim Van Lancker, 2013. "Putting the child-centred investment strategy to the test: Evidence for the EU27," Working Papers 1301, Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp.
  13. Bonoli, Giuliano, 2013. "The Origins of Active Social Policy: Labour Market and Childcare Polices in a Comparative Perspective," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199669769.
  14. Charles Baum, 2002. "A dynamic analysis of the effect of child care costs on the work decisions of low-income mothers with infants," Demography, Springer, vol. 39(1), pages 139-164, February.
  15. Blau, David M & Robins, Philip K, 1988. "Child-Care Costs and Family Labor Supply," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 70(3), pages 374-81, August.
  16. Herwig Immervoll & David Barber, 2005. "Can Parents Afford to Work?: Childcare Costs, Tax-Benefit Policies and Work Incentives," OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers 31, OECD Publishing.
  17. Corak, Miles, 2006. "Do Poor Children Become Poor Adults? Lessons from a Cross Country Comparison of Generational Earnings Mobility," IZA Discussion Papers 1993, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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