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Can Consumers Detect Lemons? Information Asymmetry in the Market for Child Care

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  • H. Naci Mocan

Abstract

This paper applies direct tests for adverse selection and moral hazard in the market for child care. A unique data set containing quality measures of various characteristics of child care provided by 746 rooms in 400 centers, as well as the evaluation of the same attributes by 3,490 affiliated consumers (parents) is employed. Comparisons of consumer evaluations of quality to actual quality show that, after adjusting for scale effects, parents are weakly rational. The hypothesis of strong rationality is rejected, indicating that parents do not utilize all available information in forming their assessment of quality. Parent characteristics impact the accuracy of their evaluations. An analysis of easy-to-observe versus difficult-to-observe aspects of quality reveals that parents are trying to extract signals more heavily in cases of difficult-to-observe items. A comparison of parent assessments to results obtained from standard quality production functions reveals that, for the most part, parents interpret the signals incorrectly. The results demonstrate the existence of information asymmetry and adverse selection in the market. There is some limited evidence for moral hazard as nonprofit centers with very clean reception areas tend to produce lower level of quality for unobservable items. These results provide an explanation for low average quality in the child care market.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 8291.

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Date of creation: May 2001
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Publication status: published as Naci Mocan, 2007. "Can consumers detect lemons? An empirical analysis of information asymmetry in the market for child care," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 20(4), pages 743-780, October.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8291

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Cited by:
  1. David Blau & Janet Currie, 2004. "Preschool, Day Care, and Afterschool Care: Who's Minding the Kids?," NBER Working Papers 10670, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Joëlle Noailly & Sabine Visser & Paul Grout, 2007. "The impact of market forces on the provision of childcare: Insights from the 2005 Childcare Act in the Netherlands," CPB Memorandum 176, CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis.
  3. V. Joseph Hotz & Mo Xiao, 2005. "The Impact of Regulations on the Supply and Quality of Care in Child Care Markets," NBER Working Papers 11873, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Xiao, Mo, 2010. "Is quality accreditation effective? Evidence from the childcare market," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 28(6), pages 708-721, November.
  5. Guyonne Kalb, 2009. "Children, Labour Supply and Child Care: Challenges for Empirical Analysis," Australian Economic Review, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, vol. 42(3), pages 276-299.
  6. Blau, David M., 2007. "Unintended consequences of child care regulations," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(3), pages 513-538, June.
  7. V. Joseph Hotz & Mo Xiao, 2005. "The Impact of Minimum Quality Standards on Firm Entry, Exit and Product Quality: The Case of the Child Care Market," Working Papers 05-28, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.

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