Canadian Daycare Research: A study the media ignored

Cardus 13 April 2017
Family First Comment: Fascinating study. Big study. Rich data. 10’s of 1,000’s of parents. Over many years. Significant findings. Ignored by the media.
What did the study find?
“The research says the creation of Quebec’s daycare system first increases the amount of time boys spend in institutional care, and then shows boys experience MORE hyperactivity, inattention and physical aggression relative to girls. For girls, on the other hand, there were INCREASES in emotional and separation anxiety…. Yet, perhaps more interesting is that the study shows parenting behaviours changed significantly the result of using daycare, particularly for girls. “…[I]n general, families with girls increasingly experience worse home environments… following the introduction of subsidized child care, on average, girls face significantly lower levels of parent consistency and lower levels of positive interactions with their parents relative to boys.”
That’s significant. But here’s the best line.
“Biasing parents’ choices toward entering the formal work force rather than staying home during their kids’ infancy and providing buckets of TLC and intimacy is not obviously the best way to maximize well-being, even if it were great for GDP or the public finances. “
Exactly! So where’s the public debate about ‘best interests of children’?

In March 2017, two Canadian economists, Steven Lehrer of Queen’s University and Michael Kottelenberg at Huron University College in London published, “Does Quebec’s subsidized child care policy give boys and girls an equal start?” in the prestigious National Bureau of Economic Research working series. (Short answer: No.)

The study uses data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth, a long-term and reliable database collected by Statistics Canada, to examine the impacts on children of the provincial daycare plan in Quebec. To remind: Quebec is the only jurisdiction in Canada to have a provincial daycare plan, which uses tax dollars to significantly lower the direct costs of daycare to parents. This type of subsidy incentivizes the use of institutional daycare. As the study explains: “Some parents will change the manner in which their children receive care when the costs of child care are lowered.” The research says the creation of Quebec’s daycare system first increases the amount of time boys spend in institutional care, and then shows boys experience more hyperactivity, inattention and physical aggression relative to girls. The authors write: “Once subsidized child care is made available, only boys face statistically significant reductions in motor social development and increased hyperactivity and inattention scores.” For girls, on the other hand, there were increases in emotional and separation anxiety.

This is not good news. Yet, perhaps more interesting is that the study shows parenting behaviours changed significantly as a result of using daycare, particularly for girls. “…[I]n general, families with girls increasingly experience worse home environments… following the introduction of subsidized child care, on average, girls face significantly lower levels of parent consistency and lower levels of positive interactions with their parents relative to boys.” The question then is whether it’s the daycare or the subsequent changes in parenting that are the problem for child outcomes, or both. The authors muse that the change in parenting could be the cause for the poorer child outcomes writing, “…behavioural responses in the home related to child investments are likely one of the main mechanisms through which this child care reform negatively affected many child outcomes.” The authors identify a plausible reason to explain the increased acting out among children: rising cortisol levels, which is a hormone associated with stress. Previous studies have shown higher levels of this stress hormone in children in institutional care.
READ MORE: https://www.cardus.ca/research/family/5055/all-the-daycare-research-thats-fit-to-print/

William Watson: Quebec’s subsidized daycare costs a whopping $2.6 billion and the children may not be better off
FinancialPost.com 30 March 2017
A new study of the effects of Quebec’s heavily subsidized daycare system — it costs $2.6 billion a year, a new Fraser Institute report tells us — bears an important lesson for Quebec and everywhere else. It’s not a new lesson. It’s probably the second most important lesson in economics, after “There is no such thing as a free lunch,” but it bears repeating. It is: “Things are complicated. You never know what unintended consequences you’ll produce once you start tinkering.”

Lehrer and Kottelenberg’s study is based on detailed, one-to-two-hour, face-to-face interviews StatCan does every two years with tens of thousands of parents, so the data are pretty rich. And they’re linked with kids’ scores on tests of motor skills, social development, vocabulary, hyperactivity, attention, separation anxiety and so on. What are the apparent effects of Quebec’s daycare policy? Moms do end up working outside the home more. Kids get more of their care outside the home, with boys getting more care in institutional daycare centres than girls do. And, as mentioned, parents’ interaction with their kids changes. In fact, girls are most hard done by as a result. As the authors write, “Following the policy introduction parents of children aged 0-3 significantly decreased the amount of time spent doing activities with their child, focusing on their child, reading to their child, and laughing with their child. [Quebec discourages laughter! You read it here first.] These estimated declines are approximately twice as large for girls relative to boys.”

Biasing parents’ choices toward entering the formal work force rather than staying home during their kids’ infancy and providing buckets of TLC and intimacy is not obviously the best way to maximize well-being, even if it were great for GDP or the public finances.
READ MORE: http://business.financialpost.com/fp-comment/william-watson-quebecs-subsidized-daycare-costs-a-whopping-2-6-billion-and-the-children-may-not-be-better-off

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