ERIC Number: ED441941
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 2000-May-2
Child Care Quality: Does It Matter and Does It Need To Be Improved?
Vandell, Deborah Lowe; Wolfe, Barbara
This report aims to provide an answer to the question of whether there is an economic justification for public intervention to improve the quality of nonparental child care, especially for lower income families. Evidence from large- and small-scale studies of the effects of child care on children's development is presented, and the economic rationale that emerges from that evidence is outlined. Nonparental child care is now the norm for young children in the United States, with nearly 60% of children 5 years or younger in child care on a daily basis. Taking into account both the gender of the child and family factors, researchers find that children appear happier, have closer and more secure attachments to caregivers, and perform better on standardized cognitive and language tests in settings with higher process quality. These are settings with developmentally appropriate activities and caretakers who are emotionally supportive and responsive to their needs. Longer-term associations between process quality and children's developmental outcomes have also been studied. One of these studies was the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care, which found that process quality during the child's first 3 years was related to the preacademic skills of expressive language and receptive language at age 3. The same study found that child care was often only fair in quality, with only 11% of settings judged excellent. From the point of view of an economist, the clear evidence of market failure in the child care sector warrants a need for public-sector intervention. The benefits of high quality child care accrue not only to the child, but to other members of society, including all children in schools with children who attended day care, taxpayers, and citizens who gain through reduced crime and public assistance costs. (Contains 8 figures, 13 tables, and 134 references.) (SLD)
Publication Type: Information Analyses
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: Wisconsin Univ., Madison. Inst. for Research on Poverty.