Impact of Early Childhood Care and Education on Children's Preschool Cognitive Development: Canadian Results from a Large Scale Quasi-Experiment
CIRPEE Working Paper No. 06-36
40 Pages Posted: 26 Oct 2006
Date Written: October 2006
On September 1st, 1997, a new early childhood care and education policy was initiated by the provincial government of Quebec, the second most populous province in Canada. Providers of childcare services licensed by the Department of the Family began offering daycare spaces at the reduced parental contribution of $5 per day per child for children aged 4. In successive years, the government reduced the age requirement and engaged in a plan to create new childcare facilities and pay for the cost of additional $5 per day childcare spaces. By September 2000, the low-fee policy applied to all children aged 0 to 59 months and the number of partly subsidized spaces increased from 77,000 in 1998 to 170,000 spaces, totally subsidized, by midyear 2003. In addition, on September 1st 1997, all public schools offered full-day rather than part-day kindergarten for 5-year-old children. No such important policy changes for preschool (including kindergarten) children were enacted in the other Canadian provinces over the years 1994 to 2003. Using biennial data drawn from Statistics Canada's National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth (NLSCY), conducted since 1994-1995, this study attempts to estimate the effect of the policy on Québec's preschool children cognitive test scores. A non-experimental evaluation framework based on multiple pre- and post-treatment periods is used to estimate the effect of the early childhood care and education regime on school readiness. The econometric results support the hypothesis that the policy had no effects on the cognitive development of 4-year-olds (the PPVT-R raw scores and the PPVT-R standardized scores). However, we provide evidence that the policy had a substantial negative impact on the scores of 5-year-olds.
Keywords: preschool children, school readiness, childcare, kindergarten, treatment effects, natural experiment
JEL Classification: H42, J21, J22
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation