“Anticipating the (Un)expected: Evidence from Introducing a Universal Childcare Policy with a Shortage of Spaces” by Dr. Weili Ding
Dr. Weili DING
The Quebec Family Policy introduced a large scale subsidy for childcare use and is often portrayed as a model for other jurisdictions. Enacted in September of 1997, access to $5-a-day childcare was granted to children age 4 immediately. Younger children only received access to this subsidy over subsequent years. Utilizing the staggered introduction of the policy, we introduce a triple differencing strategy to provide new evidence of the policy’s impact on child developmental outcomes. Our results uncover that following the introduction of the policy, many families of younger children behaved strategically. Before their children were old enough to be eligible for subsidy, these families enter childcare facilities. They do so at a rate much higher than the rest of Canada and with policy relevant differences in take-up by maternal education. These results suggest that the initial execution of the subsidy reduced equality of childcare access. Further, only after accounting for this anticipatory behavior do we continue to find that on average, universal childcare led to declines in developmental outcomes. This analysis highlights the importance of getting implementation details right for a successful evaluation of universal early childhood education program and care policies.