Winnipeg: The Frontier Centre for Public Policy today released Myths about Childcare Subsidies: A Review of the Empirical Literature. This study summarizes a growing body of recent research that suggests for most children the long-term cognitive benefits of childcare participation are short-lived, fading out entirely in just a few years.
In the paper, Frontier Centre Policy Analyst Ben Eisen reviews several recent studies that have examined the impact of childcare participation on child development.
The report shows that the creation of a universal childcare system would cost approximately $15 billion per year, but that the returns on this enormous investment would likely be extremely modest, even in the very long-term. Specific findings include:
· There is strong evidence that participation in high-quality childcare programs can bring lasting cognitive benefits to children from poor families;
· Although preschool participation can bring cognitive benefits to children from middle –class families, these benefits “fade-out” quickly over time. The cognitive benefits of preschool participation tend to fade-out almost entirely by the third grade for children from economically comfortable families;
· The finding that there are minimal medium- and long-term cognitive benefits from childcare participation for kids from middle-class families has been independently confirmed by analysis of two rich, large-scale data sets, performed by top researchers in the field;
· Significant evidence has emerged in recent years that childcare participation may also have significant negative effects on other important dimensions of child development. A recent study of childcare in Quebec, as well as two recent empirical studies from the United States, independently show that prolonged exposure to formal childcare at a young age is strongly associated with worse health and slower social development.
“Proponents of universal childcare have often presented this sort of universal subsidy as a sort of wonder-policy capable of bringing enormous long-term benefits to society in the form of lower crime, higher productivity, and other positive outcomes,” says the study’s author Ben Eisen. “Unfortunately, these hyperbolic promises rest on a weak empirical foundation and are, to a large extent, contradicted by current research in the field of child development. Poor children clearly benefit from high-quality pres-school, but there s not much evidence that children from middle-class families receive any measurable benefits. The long-term social benefits of government subsidization of childcare for comfortable families would likely be extremely modest, if there would be any at all.”
Download a copy of Myths about Childcare Subsidies here:
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