Day-care attendance and child development: in how far does quality matter?

Robert R. Bauchmuller, Universiteit Maastricht
Mette Gørtz, AKF, Danish Institute of Governmental Research
Astrid Würtz Rasmussen, Aarhus School of Business, Aarhus University

Earlier research suggests that children’s development is shaped in their early years of life. This paper examines whether differences in day-care experiences during pre-school age are important for children’s cognitive and language development at the age of 15. The analysis is based on class performance at the end of elementary schooling. We assess the effects of attended types and qualities of day-care institutions on various child outcomes as measured by exam grades in maths, science, English and Danish for the whole Danish population as well as outcomes from the PISA 2006 Denmark survey and a 2007 PISA Copenhagen survey. We use administrative registries to generate indicators such as child-staff ratios, child-pedagogues ratios, and the share of male staff and of staff with non-Danish origins. Furthermore, we use information on the average levels of educational attainments, of total work experiences, age and hourly wages of staff members. Those indicators show the expected correlations with children’s development outcomes, better day-care quality being linked to better child outcomes ten years later. We use rich administrative information about the children’s background as well as an instrumental variable approach to test whether those correlations reveal unbiased causal effects. The identification of truly effective quality characteristics of day-care centers enhances policymakers’ resource allocation to make all children getting ready for school.

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Presented in Poster Session 1