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Child care quality: Does it matter and does it need to be improved?

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Vandell, D. L., & Wolfe, B.
Publication Date: 
1 Jan 2008


Executive Summary

This report aims to provide an answer to an important policy question: Is there an economic justification for public intervention to improve the quality of non-parental child care, especially for children from lower-income families? The bulk of the evidence argues that the answer is yes. In this report we adduce evidence from large- and small-scale studies of the effects of child care on children’s
development, and set out the economic rationale that emerges from that evidence. Non-parental child care is now the norm for young children in the United States.

Nearly 60 percent of children 5 years old or younger are in child care on a regular basis, and 44 percent of infants are in child care for more than 30 hours a week (1). With the implementation of welfare-to-work programs in nearly all states, use of non-parental care is extending ever more widely among low-income families. To assess the effects of this sea change in child-rearing upon children, upon families, and upon society as a whole, we must begin with some quite specific questions: Does the quality of child care have meaningful effects on children’s developmental outcomes and on the employment of mothers, traditionally the primary caretakers? What is the quality of child care in the United States? How could it be improved, and what might be the cost of doing so?

Entered Date: 
12 Jun 2018
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