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Do higher child care subsidies improve parental well-being? Evidence from Quebec's family policies

  • Brodeur, Abel
  • Connolly, Marie

In this paper, we investigate the effect of a change in child care subsidies on parental subjective well-being. Starting in 1997, the Canadian province of Quebec implemented a generous program providing $5-a-day child care to children under the age of 5. By 2007, the percentage of children attending subsidized day care had tripled and mothers’ labor force participation had increased substantially. Objectively, more labor force participation is seen as a positive change, bringing with it higher income, independence and bargaining power. Yet a decrease in women's subjective well-being over previous decades has been documented, perhaps due to a Second Shift effect where women work more but still bear the brunt of housework and childrearing (Hochschild and Machung, 1989). Using data from the Canadian General Social Survey, we estimate a triple-differences model using differences pre- and post-reform between Quebec and the rest of Canada and between parents with young children and those with older children. Our estimates suggest that Quebec's family policies led to a small decrease in parents’ life satisfaction. Of note, though, we find large and positive effects for lower-educated mothers and fathers and negative effects for higher-educated parents. This is consistent with an income effect boosting subjective well-being for lower-educated parents and with negative effects on child outcomes overtaking income effects for more educated households.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.

Volume (Year): 93 (2013)
Issue (Month): C ()
Pages: 1-16

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:93:y:2013:i:c:p:1-16
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/jebo

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