Six Essays Evaluating the Impact of Universal Child Care on Developmental Outcomes in Quebec
Kottelenberg, Michael J.
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This thesis examines the impact of universal child care on child development outcomes. Through the case of the Quebec Family Policy, one of the largest and most comprehensive child care policies enacted in North America, the six papers making up this thesis investigate the impact of universal child care on a variety of child outcomes, including cognitive, health, and behavioural, and demonstrate that the effects of this policy are complicated along a number of dimensions. Moving beyond average effects, this research instead considers heterogeneity to produce a more nuanced analysis of the effects of universal child care. This research contributes significantly to debates surrounding best practices in child care policies, and the ways in which child care fits into trends such as gender gaps in education and increasing rates of childhood obesity. The first paper analyzes reporting of negative impacts of the Quebec Family Policy, confirming the notion that universal child care programs weaken individual and family outcomes but suggesting that substantial heterogeneity exists in response to child care attendance. The next paper examines these heterogeneous effects of universal child care through a consideration of differential impact according to child ability levels. Analysis reveals that formal child care can indeed boost developmental outcomes for some children, thus connecting a study of universal child care to the large literature on targeted programs. In the third paper aspects of the health outcomes of universal child care are examined, presenting both a complex image of the impact of child care on Body Mass Index and an initial investigation of the mechanisms driving these outcomes. The fourth paper demonstrates substantial heterogeneity across subgroups defined by child gender, and suggests that the availability of subsidized child care changed home environments disproportionately according to child gender. An analysis of heterogeneity in policy impacts by child age is the subject of the sixth paper, revealing that affects to young children drive the reported negative effects of the policy. Finally, in the sixth paper a triple difference identification strategy is used to consider the differential effects of exposure to policy access.