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Great expectations, but how to achieve them? Explaining patterns of inequality in childcare use across 31 developed countries

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CSB Working Paper
Author: 
Van Lancker, Wim & Ghysels, Joris
Publication Date: 
13 Dec 2013
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Abstract:

Childcare services are increasingly regarded as a major policy lever to
mitigate social inequalities. Such services are believed to be effective in
reducing poverty and increasing employment rates by allowing both
parents to engage in paid employment, as well as to benefit the cognitive
and non-cognitive development of young children. This holds in particular
for young children from disadvantaged backgrounds, enhancing their
future success in education and in the labour market. However, recent
studies have shown that the use of formal childcare services is socially
stratified, i.e. higher-income families or families with a high-educated
mother use childcare services to a much larger extent than lower-income
families or families with a low-skilled mother. Due to this social gap in
childcare use, government investment in childcare could fail to live up to
its inequality-reducing potential or, worse still, may actually exacerbate
rather than mitigate social inequalities. Drawing on the comparative social
policy literature, this article explores, for the first time, the determinants
of inequalities in childcare coverage for a broad set of countries. Our
results contribute to a proper understanding of the mechanisms driving
inequality in childcare service use, which is crucial to the future of
childcare services as an effective policy instrument to mitigate social
inequalities in early life.

Excerpts from the conclusion:

In one of its first comprehensive reports on childcare, the OECD noted
that “a public supply-side investment model managed by public authorities
brings more uniform quality and superior coverage of childhood
populations than parent subsidy models” (OECD 2006:114). We may now
add that they also bring more equality.

report
Entered Date: 
19 Feb 2014
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