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Innis Lecture: Universal early childhood interventions: what is the evidence base?


  • Michael Baker


Universality is a hallmark of Canadian social policy for very young children. The evidence base for these policies is small, non-experimental, and offers mixed results. In contrast, the evidence base for targeted early childhood interventions is largely experimental and offers strong guidance. Policy makers and advocates often cite the research on targeted programs in support of universal programs, although this is problematic for a number of reasons. Universal programs require a better understanding of the developmental trajectories of more advantaged children. Evidence from the NLSCY suggests there are some potentially important differences in the association of early and later childhood developmental outcomes by family economic resources.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael Baker, 2011. "Innis Lecture: Universal early childhood interventions: what is the evidence base?," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 44(4), pages 1069-1105, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:cje:issued:v:44:y:2011:i:4:p:1069-1105

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Elizabeth M. Caucutt & Lance Lochner & Youngmin Park, 2017. "Correlation, Consumption, Confusion, or Constraints: Why Do Poor Children Perform so Poorly?," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 119(1), pages 102-147, January.
    2. repec:ucp:jlabec:doi:10.1086/690652 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Nina Drange & Tarjei Havnes, 2015. "Child care before age two and the development of language and numeracy. Evidence from a lottery," Discussion Papers 808, Statistics Norway, Research Department.
    4. 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.
    5. Nina Drange & Marte Rønning, 2017. "Child care center staff composition and early child development," Discussion Papers 870, Statistics Norway, Research Department.
    6. Nicholas-James Clavet & Jean-Yves Duclos, 2012. "Le financement des services de garde des enfants : effets sur le travail, le revenu des familles, et les finances publiques," CIRANO Working Papers 2012s-33, CIRANO.
    7. Havnes, Tarjei & Mogstad, Magne, 2015. "Is universal child care leveling the playing field?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 127(C), pages 100-114.
    8. Frauke H. Peter & Pia S. Schober & C. Katharina Spieß, 2014. "Early Birds in Day Care: The Social Gradient in Starting Day Care and Children's Non-cognitive Skills," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 1438, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    9. Sneha Elango & Jorge Luis García & James J. Heckman & Andrés Hojman, 2015. "Early Childhood Education," NBER Chapters,in: Economics of Means-Tested Transfer Programs in the United States, volume 2, pages 235-297 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Busse, Anna & Gathmann, Christina, 2018. "Free Daycare and its Effects on Children and their Families," IZA Discussion Papers 11269, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    11. Nina Drange & Tarjei Havnes, 2012. "Kindergarten for all: Long run effects of a universal intervention," Discussion Papers 695, Statistics Norway, Research Department.
    12. Andreoli, Francesco & Havnes, Tarjei & Lefranc, Arnaud, 2014. "Equalization of Opportunity: Definitions, Implementable Conditions and Application to Early-Childhood Policy Evaluation," IZA Discussion Papers 8503, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    13. Michael Baker & Jonathan Gruber & Kevin Milligan, 2015. "Non-Cognitive Deficits and Young Adult Outcomes: The Long-Run Impacts of a Universal Child Care Program," NBER Working Papers 21571, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Michael J. Kottelenberg & Steven F. Lehrer, 2014. "Do the Perils of Universal Childcare Depend on the Child’s Age?," CESifo Economic Studies, CESifo, vol. 60(2), pages 338-365.
    15. Drange, Nina & Telle, Kjetil, 2015. "Promoting integration of immigrants: Effects of free child care on child enrollment and parental employment," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(C), pages 26-38.
    16. Michael Baker & Kevin Milligan, 2015. "Maternity leave and children’s cognitive and behavioral development," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 28(2), pages 373-391, April.
    17. Lars-Erik Borge & Jørn Rattsø, 2017. "Local Economic Consequences of Investment in Children: Capitalization of Child Care Services," CESifo Working Paper Series 6809, CESifo Group Munich.
    18. Michael J. Kottelenberg & Steven F. Lehrer, 2017. "Targeted or Universal Coverage? Assessing Heterogeneity in the Effects of Universal Child Care," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 35(3), pages 609-653.
    19. Michael J. Kottelenberg & Steven F. Lehrer, 2017. "Does Quebec's Subsidized Child Care Policy Give Boys and Girls an Equal Start?," NBER Working Papers 23259, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    20. Y.E. Akgündüz & E. Jongen & P.P.M. Leseman & J. Plantenga, 2013. "Cutting from the future? Impact of a subsidy reduction on child care quality in the Netherlands," Working Papers 13-18, Utrecht School of Economics.
    21. Taryn W. Morrissey, 2017. "Child care and parent labor force participation: a review of the research literature," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 15(1), pages 1-24, March.
    22. Laëtitia Lebihan & Charles Olivier Mao Takongmo, 2015. "Academic achievement trajectories and risk factors during early childhood," CIRANO Working Papers 2015s-47, CIRANO.
    23. Drange, Nina & Havnes, Tarjei & Sandsør, Astrid M.J., 2016. "Kindergarten for all: Long run effects of a universal intervention," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 164-181.

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