- Many parents want policies that let them raise their own kids, rather than funnel them into day care. Tweet This
- Poor and working-class families are more likely to prioritize the parental freedom of cash more than child care, whereas the educated and affluent are more likely to value child care. Tweet This
Imagine a family policy that increased toddlers’ “anxiety, aggression and hyperactivity,” later made school-age children more likely to act up and less satisfied with life, and was ultimately linked to a “sharp … increase in criminal behavior.” Would you be all in for such a policy? Probably not.
This was not the intent of policymakers in Quebec when they pushed through a universal child care program in 1997. In fact, their intent was to ensure a “healthy start” for all children by making low-cost child care available to all parents, while simultaneously boosting the financial fortunes of families by putting both parents back in the workforce as quickly as possible.
But their best intentions were not realized for the kids in Quebec, as Jenet Erickson, a fellow at Brigham Young University’s Wheatley Institution, recently pointed out in “Family Studies.” Instead, the introduction of universal child care in Canada led to lots of unintended consequences for the tens of thousands of infants and toddlers who ended up spending less time with their parents, ironically at the hands of an ostensibly pro-family policy.
Vox, by no means a conservative organization, summarized the policy’s ill effects this way: “Quebec gave all parents cheap day care — and their kids were worse off as a result.” To be clear, not every child care policy is designed equally. And Quebec’s program was explicit about raising the rate of mothers participating in the labor force. There are other programs that aim to give parents more options. That’s why some view cash payments, which allow for maximum flexibility (parents can simply spend the money on day care if they choose) as a better way forward than government incentives nudging parents into work rather than being with their kids.
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