More School, More Work? Variation in Early Childhood Education and Mothers’ Employment across U.S. States

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 18:10
Oral Presentation
Christel KESLER, Colby College, USA
In recent years, young children in the United States have, on average, attended more school. This is the result of more widespread (and in some states universal) pre-school or pre-Kindergarten, as well as a gradual shift over recent decades from part-time to full-time Kindergarten programs. While there has been significant scholarly attention to the implications of these changes for inequalities in children's educational outcomes, we know less about the implications for the work-family lives of parents, and for employment patterns of mothers vs. their childless counterparts, in particular. In this paper, we leverage state-level variation in funding for and availability of early childhood education to examine impacts on mothers’ employment. We draw on macro-level data from various sources, including the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) State of Preschool and State of Head-Start Yearbooks, as well as the Care Index of the New America Foundation. We combine the macro-level data with micro-level data from the Current Population Survey (CPS) and the Survey of Income Program Participation (SIPP). We pay particular attention to differences in the effects of early childhood education by parents’ socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, and nativity status, because we expect that state-level variations in funding for and availability of early childhood education will have greater impacts for more disadvantaged mothers. Explicit comparisons of immigrant and native-born parents also help to address concerns that local and regional attitudes and cultures may drive both policies concerning early childhood education and the employment patterns of mothers of young children, challenging our ability to identify causal effects of the education programs. We conclude the paper with a discussion of the importance of considering the role of early childhood education in the lives of both children and parents.