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Canadian Evidence on Ten Years of Universal Preschool Policies: the Good and the Bad

  • Catherine Haeck
  • Pierre Lefebvre
  • Philip Merrigan

More than ten years ago, to increase mothers’ participation in the labour market and to enhance child development, the province of Québec implemented a $5 per day universal childcare policy. This paper provides a comprehensive review of the costs and benefits of the program over that period. A non-experimental evaluation framework based on multiple pre- and post-treatment periods is used to estimate the policy effects. We find that the reform had important and lasting effects on the number of children aged 1 to 4 attending childcare and the numbers of hours they spend in daycare. For children aged 5, we uncovered strong evidence that implementing full-day kindergarten alone was not enough to increase maternal labour force participation and weeks worked, but when combined with the low-fee daycare program it was, and these effects were also long lasting. Our results on cognitive development suggest that the school setting is more successful in raising children’s cognitive ability than the daycare setting. Finally, we show that the fiscal costs were most likely larger than the benefits.

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Paper provided by CIRPEE in its series Cahiers de recherche with number 1334.

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Date of creation: 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:lvl:lacicr:1334
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  1. Kottelenberg, Michael J. & Lehrer, Steven F., 2012. "New Evidence on the Impacts of Access to and Attending Universal Childcare in Canada," CLSSRN working papers clsrn_admin-2012-27, Vancouver School of Economics, revised 29 Oct 2012.
  2. Catherine HAECK, 2011. "Increased paid maternitiy leave and children's development measured at age four to five. An empirical analysis," Center for Economic Studies - Discussion papers ces11.15, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Centrum voor Economische Studiën.
  3. Loeb, Susanna & Bridges, Margaret & Bassok, Daphna & Fuller, Bruce & Rumberger, Russell W., 2007. "How much is too much? The influence of preschool centers on children's social and cognitive development," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 52-66, February.
  4. Maria Fitzpatrick, 2008. "Preschoolers Enrolled and Mothers at Work? The Effects of Universal Pre-Kindergarten," Working Papers 08-04, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  5. Michael Baker & Kevin Milligan, 2008. "Evidence From Maternity Leave Expansions of the Impact of Maternal Care on Early Child Development," NBER Working Papers 13826, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Richard Blundell & Mónica Costa Dias, 2008. "Alternative Approaches to Evaluation in Empirical Microeconomics," CEF.UP Working Papers 0805, Universidade do Porto, Faculdade de Economia do Porto.
  7. Jane Waldfogel, 2002. "Child care, women's employment, and child outcomes," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 15(3), pages 527-548.
  8. Pierre Lefebvre & Philip Merrigan & Francis Roy-Desrosiers, 2011. "Québec's Childcare Universal Low Fees Policy 10 Years After: Effects, Costs and Benefits," Cahiers de recherche 1101, CIRPEE.
  9. Michael Baker & Jonathan Gruber & Kevin Milligan, 2008. "Universal Child Care, Maternal Labor Supply, and Family Well-Being," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 116(4), pages 709-745, 08.
  10. Lefebvre, Pierre & Merrigan, Philip & Verstraete, Matthieu, 2009. "Dynamic labour supply effects of childcare subsidies: Evidence from a Canadian natural experiment on low-fee universal child care," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(5), pages 490-502, October.
  11. Jean-Yves Duclos, 2006. "Innis Lecture: Equity and equality," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 39(4), pages 1073-1104, November.
  12. Magnuson, Katherine A. & Ruhm, Christopher & Waldfogel, Jane, 2007. "Does prekindergarten improve school preparation and performance?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 33-51, February.
  13. DeCicca, Philip, 2007. "Does full-day kindergarten matter? Evidence from the first two years of schooling," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 67-82, February.
  14. Doyle, Orla & Harmon, Colm P. & Heckman, James J. & Tremblay, Richard E., 2009. "Investing in early human development: Timing and economic efficiency," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(1), pages 1-6, March.
  15. Pierre Lefebvre & Philip Merrigan, 2008. "Child-Care Policy and the Labor Supply of Mothers with Young Children: A Natural Experiment from Canada," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 26(3), pages 519-548, 07.
  16. William T. Gormley, Jr. & Ted Gayer, 2005. "Promoting School Readiness in Oklahoma: An Evaluation of Tulsa's Pre-K Program," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 40(3).
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