Increased Maternity Leave or Day Care Centers for Toddlers? Chile’s Infant Public Policy in a Crossroad
The main objective of this study is to answer a critical question facing public policy for infants worldwide: are infants between 0 and 12 months old better if the state subsidizes childcare or if the state extends maternity leave? There is mixed evidence on the effect of childcare on the children’s cognitive and development outcomes. On the one hand, the panel study by NICHD-ECCRN (2003) finds that the time during the first 4.5 years of a child’s life spent away from her mother is a causal factor of aggression, disobedience and assertiveness. In addition, Baker, Gruber and Milligan (2008) find that day care children are more likely to get ill, and are worse off in motor and social skills. On the other hand, NICHD-ECCRN (2004) finds that childcare improves children’s first grade performance despite the increased behavioral problems. Moreover, the validity of the previously mentioned evidence – from Canada and the US- in the Chilean context is highly disputable because is mediated by the quality of childcare, parent’s educational level and parental care. In addition, there are no studies in the Chilean context that reliably respond to the research question. To answer the research question, the study will compare the cognitive and development outcomes of children between 0 and 12 months old that attend childcare with respect to the outcomes of children of the same age that stay with their mothers. The specific aim of the proposed study is to determine which of the two competing policies (childcare vs. increased maternity leave) is more beneficial for children’s cognitive and development outcomes. Currently, the Chilean Government, through the program “Chile Crece Contigo” intends to provide universal childcare coverage for all working or job-seeking mothers within the 40% poorest population in Chile (Chile Crece Contigo, 2007). The projects’ findings will complement Harvard’s DRCLAS sponsored “Un Buen Comienzo” childhood education program in Chile whose aim is improving the cognitive skills of children from 3-6 years old.
Participating Harvard Faculty: Alberto Abadie, Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School
Collaborators: Kenzo Asahi, Harvard Kennedy School
Collaborating Institutions: Un Buen Comienzo, Early Childhood Initiative Program