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Immigrant and disadvantaged children benefit most from early childcare, according to new study

Attending universal childcare from age three significantly improves the school readiness of children from immigrant and disadvantaged family backgrounds.

5 June 2018


A new study co-authored by an economist at Queen Mary University of London has found that whilst immigrant children and children from disadvantaged backgrounds benefit the most from early childcare, they were also less likely to attend at age three.

The research, led by the Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), based at University College London (UCL), will be published in the forthcoming Journal of Political Economy.

Barriers to attendance

There are several factors that help to explain why children from immigrant and disadvantaged families are less likely to attend childcare, despite high gains. Parents from immigrant and lower socio-economic backgrounds may be more critical of preschool programmes and may not be adequately informed about the positive effects of early childcare attendance.

Cost is also a factor, as fees relative to household income tend to be higher for families from low socio-economic backgrounds. In addition, universal childcare may be more popular among native parents from higher socio-economic backgrounds as they are more likely to work and therefore use childcare to replace home care.

Co- author Dr Anna Raute, from Queen Mary’s School of Economics and Finance said: “Tying access to free childcare to mothers’ employment status, as recently implemented in England, may well incentivise mothers to return to work and thereby promote gender equality,

“However, it may not draw those children into childcare who would benefit the most.”

Policy implications

Although conducted for Germany, the study has important implications for a reform recently introduced in England that expanded free childcare for three and four year olds from 15 to 30 hours per week, but only for children of working parents.

The research suggests that this policy is unlikely to draw those children into childcare who would benefit the most and may therefore not succeed in improving children’s outcomes.

More information

  • This news story was adapted from a press release issued by UCL.
  • Read a VOX-EU blog about the research here.
  • Read the full report here.
  • Find out more about Economics and Finance at Queen Mary here.
  • Study Economics at Queen Mary.

For media information, contact:

Paul Jordan
Public Relations Manager
Queen Mary University of London
email: p.jordan@qmul.ac.uk
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