Who's Minding the Kids? Experimental Evidence on the Demand for Child Care Quality

49 Pages Posted: 17 Dec 2018

See all articles by Chris M. Herbst

Chris M. Herbst

Arizona State University (ASU) - School of Public Affairs

Erdal Tekin

Georgia State University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Abstract

Despite the well-documented benefits of high-quality child care, many preschool-age children in the U.S. attend low-quality programs. Accordingly, improving the quality of child care is increasingly an explicit goal of government policy. However, accomplishing this goal requires a thorough understanding of the factors that influence parents' child care decisions. This paper provides the first credible evidence on the demand for child care characteristics in the market for home-based care. Using a randomized audit design, we study three dimensions of caregiving: affordability (i.e., the hourly price of child care), quality (i.e., caregiver education and experience), and convenience (i.e., caregiver car ownership and availability).We find that while parents are extremely sensitive to the cost of child care, they also have strong preferences for quality, particularly caregivers' educational attainment. Furthermore, we obtain mixed results on the convenience dimensions of child care, with parents valuing those owning a car but not those with more availability. Finally, we find significant heterogeneity in child care preferences according to families' age of youngest child, race and ethnicity, and willingness-to-pay. Our findings suggest that the child care market's quality problems may be driven by parents' inability to afford high-quality care or their lack of informational resources on how to identify such programs, rather than an unwillingness to pay for them.

Keywords: child care, early childhood, education, parent preferences, field experiments

JEL Classification: I21, I28, J01, J23, J24

Suggested Citation

Herbst, Chris M. and Tekin, Erdal, Who's Minding the Kids? Experimental Evidence on the Demand for Child Care Quality. IZA Discussion Paper No. 11985, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3301744

Chris M. Herbst

Arizona State University (ASU) - School of Public Affairs ( email )

Box 870603
Tempe, AZ 85287
United States

Erdal Tekin

Georgia State University - Department of Economics ( email )

University Plaza
Andrew Young School of Policy Studies
Atlanta, GA 30303
United States
404-651-3968 (Phone)
404-651-4985 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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