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Canadian evidence on ten years of universal preschool policies: The good and the bad

TitleCanadian evidence on ten years of universal preschool policies: The good and the bad
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsHaeck, C., Lefebvre P., and Merrigan P.
JournalLabour Economics
Pages137 - 157
Keywordschildcare policy, mother's labour supply, natural experiment, preschool children and school readiness, treatment effects

More than ten years ago, to increase mothers' participation in the labour market and to enhance child development, the province of Québec implemented a $5 per day universal childcare policy. This paper provides a comprehensive review of the impact of the program over more than 10 years after its implementation. A nonexperimental evaluation framework based on multiple pre- and posttreatment periods is used to estimate the policy effects. We find that the reform had important and lasting effects on the number of children aged 1-4 years old attending childcare and the numbers of hours they spend in daycare. For children aged 5 years old, we uncovered strong evidence that implementing full-day kindergarten alone was not enough to increase maternal labour force participation and weeks worked, but when combined with the low-fee daycare program it was, and these effects were also long lasting. Finally, our results on cognitive development suggest the reform did not improve school readiness and may even have had negative impacts on children from low-income families.