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Early childhood education: The interplay between government, market, and family

This dissertation examines the impact of government intervention in early childhood education on the child care market, children's cognitive and socioemotional development, and familial relations. Experimental and quasi-experimental analyses reveal substantial effects of public preschool provision on the demand for and quality of childcare, child well-being, and family processes. The first two chapters capitalize on a natural experiment wherein the Australian state of Queensland eliminated its provision of universal preschool in 2007 in order to fund a new kindergarten year, while the other states continued to provide preschool for four-year-olds, allowing for difference-in-difference estimates of the effects of universal preschool. The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) provides rich, longitudinal data that permit the examination of these effects. In "Public Preschool and Families' Child Care Decisions: A Natural Experiment in Australia," I measure the impact of universal preschool provision on children's participation in non-parental care as well as on the characteristics of care used: type, stability, and intensity. I find that the loss of universal preschool is associated with a decrease in the use of formal and non-parental care. I also find an associated decrease in the utilization of multiple care arrangements but no change in the intensity of care use. Finally, I find that the loss of universal preschool is associated with an increase in informal care usage and private preschool attendance but a decrease in local government provision, indicating that public preschool provision crowds out informal child care and private preschool participation but that state and local government preschool provision are complementary. In "The Impact of Universal Preschool on Family Behavior and Child Outcomes in Australia," Sandra Black, Paul Devereux, Ariel Kalil, and I measure the effects of public preschool provision on child development outcomes and explore mechanisms by which such effects might be generated. We find that universal preschool improves children's cognitive and socioemotional outcomes, likely through its impacts on formal care quality and parenting. The final chapter, entitled "Head Start's Intergenerational Potential: Do Program Impacts Vary by Mother's Head Start Participation?" further explores the multigenerational effects of public preschool provision. In this paper, I ask whether the effect of Head Start differs for the children of former program participants, as compared to the children of non-participants, and find using experimental Head Start Impact Study data that the children of mothers who participated in Head Start receive larger programmatic effects on their cognitive test scores. I try to determine the source of this difference by exploring several potential channels, and find that mothers' daily literacy practices improve by more if they participated in Head Start as children, suggesting that the improved parenting practices of these mothers drive the larger treatment effect on their children's cognitive skills. These findings indicate that first- and second-generation Head Start participation are complementary. (author abstract)
Resource Type:
Reports & Papers
United States; Australia

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