Early Childhood Care and Cognitive Development

86 Pages Posted: 2 Mar 2020 Last revised: 7 Apr 2021

See all articles by Juan Chaparro

Juan Chaparro

Universidad EAFIT

Aaron Sojourner

University of Minnesota; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Matthew Wiswall

University of Wisconsin - Madison - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: February 2020


This paper combines multiple sources of information on early childhood development in a unified model for analysis of a wide range of early childhood policy interventions. We develop a model of child care in which households decide both the quantities and qualities of maternal and non-maternal care along with maternal labor supply. The model introduces a novel parenting-effort channel, whereby child care subsidies that permit less parenting may enable better parenting. To estimate the model, we combine observational data with experimental data from the Infant Health and Development Program (IHDP) which randomly assigned free child care when the child was 1 and 2 years old. We estimate a cognitive skill production function and household preferences, giving insight into mechanisms driving the ex post heterogeneous effects of the IHDP intervention, accounting for alternative care substitutes available to the control group and spillovers of the child care offer across the household's decisions. We also estimate ex ante effects of counterfactual policies such as an offer of lower-quality care, requiring a co-pay for subsidized care, raising the maternal wage offer, or a cash transfer. Finally, we use the model to rationalize existing evidence from outside the US on the effects of universal child care programs.

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Suggested Citation

Chaparro, Juan and Sojourner, Aaron J. and Wiswall, Matthew, Early Childhood Care and Cognitive Development (February 2020). NBER Working Paper No. w26813, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3547161

Juan Chaparro (Contact Author)

Universidad EAFIT ( email )

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Bogotá, Antioquia 00000

Aaron J. Sojourner

University of Minnesota ( email )

Carlson School of Management
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IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

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Matthew Wiswall

University of Wisconsin - Madison - Department of Economics ( email )

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United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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