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The Impact of Child‐Care Subsidies on Child Development: Evidence from Geographic Variation in the Distance to Social Service Agencies


  • Chris M. Herbst
  • Erdal Tekin


In this paper, we examine the impact of U.S. child‐care subsidies on the cognitive and behavioral development of children in low‐income female‐headed families. We identify the effect of subsidy receipt by exploiting geographic variation in the distance that families must travel from home to reach the nearest social service agency that administers the subsidy application process. Using data from the Kindergarten cohort of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, our instrumental variables estimates suggest that children receiving subsidized child care in the year before kindergarten score lower on tests of cognitive ability and reveal more behavior problems throughout kindergarten. An auxiliary analysis of longer‐run outcomes shows that these negative effects largely disappear by the time children finish first grade.

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  • Chris M. Herbst & Erdal Tekin, 2016. "The Impact of Child‐Care Subsidies on Child Development: Evidence from Geographic Variation in the Distance to Social Service Agencies," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 35(1), pages 94-116, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:jpamgt:v:35:y:2016:i:1:p:94-116

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    Cited by:

    1. Herbst, Chris M., 2018. "The rising cost of child care in the United States: A reassessment of the evidence," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 13-30.
    2. 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.
    3. Ali, Umair & Herbst, Chris M. & Makridis, Christos A., 2020. "The Impact of COVID-19 on the U.S. Child Care Market: Evidence from Stay-At-Home Orders," IZA Discussion Papers 13261, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    4. James Gordon & Chris M. Herbst & Erdal Tekin, 2018. "Who’s Minding the Kids? Experimental Evidence on the Demand for Child Care Quality," NBER Working Papers 25335, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Herbst, Chris M., 2018. "The impact of quality rating and improvement systems on families’ child care choices and the supply of child care labor," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 172-190.

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