NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 21, 2006

In Quebec, full-time day care costs just $7 a day -- Canadian dollars, at that -- thanks to a government program.  Starting in 1997, the Quebec Family Policy subsidized day care for 4-year-olds at government-approved centers around the province.  By 2000, the program had expanded to cover any child not old enough for kindergarten, all the way down to infants, says the New York Times. 

Almost a decade after the family policy started, however, there was still a big mystery about it.  Nobody had done the work to find out how it had affected children.  The province was spending $1.4 billion a year on a grand social experiment, yet no one had bothered to look at the results until economists Michael Baker and Kevin Milligan and Jonathan Gruber took up the challenge.  They found:

  • Young children in Quebec are more anxious and aggressive than they were a decade ago, even though children elsewhere in Canada did not show big changes.
  • The effects weren't that great for parents either; more of them reported being depressed, and they were less satisfied with their marriages -- which also didn't happen in other provinces.

The big lesson from Quebec is that parents really do need more support, but they need the kind of support that allows them to choose what is best for their family, says the Times. 

Source: David Leonhardt, "The Price of Day Care Can Be High," New York Times, June 14, 2006.

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