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Who's Minding the Kids? Experimental Evidence on the Demand for Child Care Quality

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  • Gordon, James

    () (American University)

  • Herbst, Chris M.

    () (Arizona State University)

  • Tekin, Erdal

    () (American University)

Abstract

Despite the well-documented benefits of high-quality child care, many preschool-age children in the U.S. attend low-quality programs. Accordingly, improving the quality of child care is increasingly an explicit goal of government policy. However, accomplishing this goal requires a thorough understanding of the factors that influence parents' child care decisions. This paper provides the first credible evidence on the demand for child care characteristics in the market for home-based care. Using a randomized audit design, we study three dimensions of caregiving: affordability (i.e., the hourly price of child care), quality (i.e., caregiver education and experience), and convenience (i.e., caregiver car ownership and availability). We find that while parents are extremely sensitive to the cost of child care, they also have strong preferences for quality, particularly caregivers' educational attainment. Furthermore, we obtain mixed results on the convenience dimensions of child care, with parents valuing those owning a car but not those with more availability. Finally, we find significant heterogeneity in child care preferences according to families' age of youngest child, race and ethnicity, and willingness-to-pay. Our findings suggest that the child care market's quality problems may be driven by parents' inability to afford high-quality care or their lack of informational resources on how to identify such programs, rather than an unwillingness to pay for them.

Suggested Citation

  • Gordon, James & Herbst, Chris M. & Tekin, Erdal, 2018. "Who's Minding the Kids? Experimental Evidence on the Demand for Child Care Quality," IZA Discussion Papers 11985, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp11985
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    1. repec:eee:ecoedu:v:64:y:2018:i:c:p:13-30 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Temple, Judy A. & Reynolds, Arthur J., 2007. "Benefits and costs of investments in preschool education: Evidence from the Child-Parent Centers and related programs," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 126-144, February.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    child care; early childhood; education; parent preferences; field experiments;

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy
    • J01 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - Labor Economics: General
    • J23 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Demand
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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