Obstacles To Childcare Services For Low Income Families: How Important Is The Cost Of The Service?
While the existence of a social bias in access to childcare services has been clearly demonstrated, we currently lack a clear explanation as to why this is the case. This paper uses a unique dataset based on survey data collected specifically to study patterns of childcare use in the Swiss canton of Vaud (N= 1,900). The paper takes advantage of variation in the fees that parents have to pay for using childcare services. Childcare is a municipal policy, as a result of which there are 28 different systems in operation in the canton. Fees are progressive everywhere, but variation is nonetheless substantial. For exactly the same household income and same service, the parental contribution can vary by a factor of 1 to 5.
This peculiar institutional setup provides an ideal situation to examine the importance of variation in the cost of service for parents as a determinant of childcare use. The paper will test the hypothesis that the cost of service is a major obstacle to the use of childcare services by low-income families, in spite of the fact that fees are progressive. It will use a multilevel design, with the first level of analysis represented by households, and the 28 childcare systems constituting the second one.
Expected findings: an initial exploration of the data suggests that the pro-rich bias in childcare service use is strong in the canton as a whole, but that in a few municipalities where for various reasons fees for low income people are particularly low, the bias concerns only the upper half of the income distribution.