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Labour’s Record on the Under Fives: Policy, Spending and Outcomes 1997-2010

  • Kitty Stewart
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    When Labour came to power in 1997 it made commitments to reduce poverty and improve children's health, education and wider life chances. Early childhood was considered central to the strategy, and considerable resources were invested in very young children. This paper examines the main policies introduced affecting children under five, including longer maternity leave, Sure Start Children's Centres, free early education for all three and four year olds, more affordable and higher quality childcare, and more generous financial support for families with children, both in and out of work. The paper draws on government statistics and evaluations as well as wider evidence from a range of independent sources to examine where increased spending went, and with what impact. Children's outcomes improved on a range of measures during this period. Child poverty fell from one in three to one in four in households with a youngest child under five. Low birthweight and infant mortality rates (IMR) fell, and Foundation Stage Profile results improved. In all three measures gaps between different social groups narrowed. Research evaluations, where available, point to small but significant effects of particular policies, including Sure Start, the Neighbourhood Nurseries Initiative and the Graduate Leader Fund. However, in the absence of more widespread evidence from evaluations it is difficult to attribute changes in outcomes directly to changes in policy. The paper discusses these challenges and considers a series of 'tests' of Labour's impact, including whether improvements represent a change in a longer-term trend, and, where possible, how outcomes compare in international terms.

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    Paper provided by Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, LSE in its series CASE Papers with number /176.

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    Date of creation: Oct 2013
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    Handle: RePEc:cep:sticas:/176
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    1. Anitha George & Lucy Stokes & David Wilkinson, 2012. "Does Early Education Influence Key Stage 1 Attainment? Evidence for England from the Millennium Cohort Study," National Institute Economic Review, National Institute of Economic and Social Research, vol. 222(1), pages R67-R80, October.
    2. Michael Baker & Kevin S. Milligan, 2007. "Maternal employment, breastfeeding, and health: Evidence from maternity leave mandates," NBER Working Papers 13188, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Gregg, Paul & Waldfogel, Jane & Washbrook, Elizabeth, 2006. "Family expenditures post-welfare reform in the UK: Are low-income families starting to catch up?," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(6), pages 721-746, December.
    4. Lawrence M. Berger & Jennifer Hill & Jane Waldfogel, 2005. "Maternity leave, early maternal employment and child health and development in the US," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 115(501), pages F29-F47, 02.
    5. Borra, Cristina & Iacovou, Maria & Sevilla, Almudena, 2012. "The effect of breastfeeding on children's cognitive and noncognitive development," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(4), pages 496-515.
    6. David M. Blau, 1999. "The Effect Of Income On Child Development," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 81(2), pages 261-276, May.
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