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New Evidence on the Impacts of Access to and Attending Universal Childcare in Canada


  • Michael J. Kottelenberg
  • Steven F. Lehrer


In Canada, advocates of universal child care often point to policies implemented in Quebec as providing a model for early education and care policies in other provinces. While these policies have proven to be incredibly popular among citizens, initial evaluations of access to these programs indicated they led to a multitude of undesirable child developmental, health and family outcomes. These research findings ignited substantial controversy and criticism. In this study, we show the robustness of the initial analyses to i) concerns over whether negative outcomes would vanish over time as suppliers gained experience providing child care, ii) concerns regarding multiple testing, and iii) concerns that the original test measured the causal impact of childcare availability and not child care attendance. A notable exception is that despite estimated effects stemming from the policy indicating declines in motor-social development scores in Quebec relative to the rest of Canada, our analyses imply that on average attending childcare in Canada leads to a significant increase in this test score. However, our analysis reveals substantial heterogeneity in program impacts that occur in response to the Quebec policies and indicates that most of the negative impacts reported in earlier research are driven by children from families who only attended childcare in response to the implementation of this policy.

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  • Michael J. Kottelenberg & Steven F. Lehrer, 2013. "New Evidence on the Impacts of Access to and Attending Universal Childcare in Canada," NBER Working Papers 18785, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18785
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    1. repec:ucp:jlabec:doi:10.1086/690652 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Haeck, Catherine & Lefebvre, Pierre & Merrigan, Philip, 2015. "Canadian evidence on ten years of universal preschool policies: The good and the bad," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(C), pages 137-157.
    3. Brodeur, Abel & Connolly, Marie, 2013. "Do higher child care subsidies improve parental well-being? Evidence from Quebec's family policies," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 1-16.
    4. Sneha Elango & Jorge Luis García & James J. Heckman & Andrés Hojman, 2015. "Early Childhood Education," NBER Chapters,in: Economics of Means-Tested Transfer Programs in the United States, volume 2, pages 235-297 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Shintaro Yamaguchi & Yukiko Asai & Ryo Kambayashi, 2017. "How Does Early Childcare Enrollment Affect Children, Parents, and Their Interactions?," Department of Economics Working Papers 2017-05, McMaster University.
    6. Michael Baker & Jonathan Gruber & Kevin Milligan, 2015. "Non-Cognitive Deficits and Young Adult Outcomes: The Long-Run Impacts of a Universal Child Care Program," NBER Working Papers 21571, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Michael J. Kottelenberg & Steven F. Lehrer, 2014. "Do the Perils of Universal Childcare Depend on the Child’s Age?," CESifo Economic Studies, CESifo, vol. 60(2), pages 338-365.
    8. Don Drummond & Evan Capeluck & Matthew Calver, 2015. "The Key Challenge for Canadian Public Policy: Generating Inclusive and Sustainable Economic Growth," CSLS Research Reports 2015-11, Centre for the Study of Living Standards.
    9. Marie Connolly & Catherine Haeck, 2015. "Are Childcare Subsidies Good for Parental Well-being? Empirical Evidence from Three Countries," ifo DICE Report, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 13(1), pages 09-15, 04.
    10. Kai Hong & Kacie Dragan & Sherry Glied, 2017. "Seeing and Hearing: The Impacts of New York City’s Universal Prekindergarten Program on the Health of Low-Income Children," NBER Working Papers 23297, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Michael J. Kottelenberg & Steven F. Lehrer, 2017. "Targeted or Universal Coverage? Assessing Heterogeneity in the Effects of Universal Child Care," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 35(3), pages 609-653.
    12. Michael J. Kottelenberg & Steven F. Lehrer, 2017. "Does Quebec's Subsidized Child Care Policy Give Boys and Girls an Equal Start?," NBER Working Papers 23259, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. repec:ces:ifodic:v:13:y:2015:i:1:p:19160201 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C31 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Multiple or Simultaneous Equation Models; Multiple Variables - - - Cross-Sectional Models; Spatial Models; Treatment Effect Models; Quantile Regressions; Social Interaction Models
    • H2 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy
    • J2 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor

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