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Great expectations, but how to achieve them? Explaining patterns of inequality in childcare use across 31 developed countries

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  • Wim Van Lancker
  • Joris Ghysels

Abstract

Childcare services are increasingly regarded as a major policy lever to mitigate social inequalities. Such services are believed to be effective in reducing poverty and increasing employment rates by allowing both parents to engage in paid employment, as well as to benefit the cognitive and non-cognitive development of young children. This holds in particular for young children from disadvantaged backgrounds, enhancing their future success in education and in the labour market. However, recent studies have shown that the use of formal childcare services is socially stratified, i.e. higher-income families or families with a high-educated mother use childcare services to a much larger extent than lower-income families or families with a low-skilled mother. Due to this social gap in childcare use, government investment in childcare could fail to live up to its inequality-reducing potential or, worse still, may actually exacerbate rather than mitigate social inequalities. Drawing on the comparative social policy literature, this article explores, for the first time, the determinants of inequalities in childcare coverage for a broad set of countries. Our results contribute to a proper understanding of the mechanisms driving inequality in childcare service use, which is crucial to the future of childcare services as an effective policy instrument to mitigate social inequalities in early life.

Suggested Citation

  • Wim Van Lancker & Joris Ghysels, 2013. "Great expectations, but how to achieve them? Explaining patterns of inequality in childcare use across 31 developed countries," Working Papers 1305, Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp.
  • Handle: RePEc:hdl:wpaper:1305
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    5. Joris Ghysels & Wim Van Lancker, 2010. "The unequal benefits of family activation: an analysis of the social distribution of family policy among families with young children," Working Papers 1008, Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    childcare; comparative; ECEC; Education; inequality; welfare state;

    JEL classification:

    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality
    • I3 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty
    • H53 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Government Expenditures and Welfare Programs
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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