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The Impact of Center-Based Childcare Attendance on Early Child Development:Evidence from the French Elfe Cohort

Collection : Documents de travail

254, 2020

Proponents of early childhood care programs cite evidence that high-quality center-based childcare has positive impacts on child development, particularly for disadvantaged children. Much of this evidence stems from randomized evaluations of small-scale intensive U.S programs, and is more mixed with respect to widespread or universal center-based childcare provision. Most existing evidence concern 3-to5-year-old children; less is known about the impact of center-based care before. The French context is particularly suited to such interrogation as the majority of children who attend center-based care before age 3 do so in highquality, state-funded, state-regulated centers, and known as crèches. We use a large, nationally representative French birth cohort (Elfe), to estimate whether crèche attendance at age 1 has an impact on language, motor skills, and child behavior at age 2, with an instrumental variables strategy that leverages exogenous variation in birth month and local crèche supply. Crèche attendance has a positive impact on language skills -particularly concentrated among disadvantaged children-, to a lesser extent on motor skills, but also a negative impact on behavior. Facilitating increased crèche access among disadvantaged families may hold potential for decreasing early socioeconomic disparities in child language at age 2, and possibly on the long-term population inequalities given the importance of early development for later-life outcomes.

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