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Public Preschool and Maternal Labor Supply: Evidence from the Introduction of Kindergartens into American Public Schools

  • Elizabeth Cascio

Beginning in the mid-1960s, many state governments, particularly in the South and West, began to subsidize kindergartens for the first time. These initiatives generated wide variation across states over time in the supply of seats for five year olds in public schools. This paper uses the staggered timing and age-targeting of these preschool expansions to examine how the provision of universal child care through public schools affects maternal labor supply. I find that single women with five year olds but no younger children were more likely to be employed once kindergartens were available. The estimated effect is large, implying that three mothers entered the labor force for every ten children enrolled in public school. By contrast, I detect no significant labor supply response among other single women with eligible children or among married mothers of five year olds. These findings complement other research suggesting that preschools targeted toward at-risk populations, such as children in single-parent families, are more cost effective than universal programs.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12179.

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Date of creation: May 2006
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Publication status: published as Cascio, Elizabeth, 2009. "Maternal Labor Supply and the Introduction of Kindergartens into American Public Schools." The Journal of Human Resources, 44(1), 140-170, Winter 2009.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12179
Note: CH LS
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  1. Michael Baker & Jonathan Gruber & Kevin Milligan, 2005. "Universal Childcare, Maternal Labor Supply, and Family Well-Being," NBER Working Papers 11832, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Joshua D. Angrist & Alan B. Krueger, 1990. "Does Compulsory School Attendance Affect Schooling and Earnings?," NBER Working Papers 3572, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Berlinski, Samuel & Galiani, Sebastian, 2007. "The effect of a large expansion of pre-primary school facilities on preschool attendance and maternal employment," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(3), pages 665-680, June.
  4. Patricia M. Anderson & Phillip B. Levine, 1999. "Child Care and Mothers' Employment Decisions," JCPR Working Papers 64, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
  5. Justin McCrary & Heather Royer, 2006. "The Effect of Female Education on Fertility and Infant Health: Evidence from School Entry Policies Using Exact Date of Birth," NBER Working Papers 12329, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Blau, David & Currie, Janet, 2006. "Pre-School, Day Care, and After-School Care: Who's Minding the Kids?," Handbook of the Economics of Education, Elsevier.
  7. Rosenbaum, Dan T. & Ruhm, Christopher J., 2005. "The Cost of Caring for Young Children," IZA Discussion Papers 1860, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  8. Jerry Hausman, 2001. "Mismeasured Variables in Econometric Analysis: Problems from the Right and Problems from the Left," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(4), pages 57-67, Fall.
  9. Elizabeth U. Cascio & Ethan G. Lewis, 2006. "Schooling and the Armed Forces Qualifying Test: Evidence from School-Entry Laws," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 41(2).
  10. Janet Currie, 2001. "Early Childhood Education Programs," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(2), pages 213-238, Spring.
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