Increased stakes in educational achievement
explain why today’s anxious parents engage in intensive parenting styles
Parents now engage in much more intensive
parenting styles compared to a few decades ago. Today’s parents supervise
their children more closely, spend more time interacting with them, help
much more with homework, and place more emphasis on educational achievement.
More intensive parenting has also led to more unequal parenting: highly
educated parents with high incomes have increased their parenting
investments the most, leading to a growing “parenting gap” in society. These
trends can contribute to declining social mobility and further exacerbate
rising inequality, which raises the question of how policymakers should
Childcare provided by grandparents helps young working
mothers, but reduces the labor supply of older women
Older people in developed countries are living longer and
healthier lives. A prolonged and healthy mature period of life is often associated with
continued and active participation in the labor market. At the same time, active
grandparents can offer their working offspring a free, flexible, and reliable source of
childcare. However, while grandparent-provided childcare helps young parents (especially
young mothers) overcome the negative effects of child rearing on their labor market
participation, it can sometimes conflict with the objective of providing additional
income through employment for older workers, most notably older women.
External school leaving exams raise student
achievement and improve how grades are understood in the labor market
Reaching the policy goal of improving student
achievement by adding resources to the school system has often proven
elusive. By contrast, ample evidence indicates that central exit exams
constitute an important feature of a school system’s institutional
framework, which can hold students, teachers, schools, and administrators
accountable for student outcomes. While critics point to issues such as
teaching test-only skills, which may leave students ill-prepared for the
real world, the evidence does not bear this out. Overall, central exams are
related to better student achievement, favorable labor market outcomes, and
higher economic growth.
Preschool improves child outcomes, especially
for disadvantaged children
Children from disadvantaged families have lower
levels of school readiness when they enter school than do children from more
advantaged families. Many countries have tried to reduce this inequality
through publicly provided preschool. Evidence on the potential of these
programs to reduce inequality in child development is now quite strong.
Long-term studies of large publicly funded programs in Europe and Latin
America, and newer studies on state and local prekindergarten programs
implemented more recently in the US, find that the programs do improve
outcomes for young children, particularly for those from disadvantaged
Subsidized childcare fosters maternal
employment, but employment status, childcare quality, and availability
Women’s labor force participation has rapidly
increased in most countries, but mothers still struggle to achieve a
satisfactory work−life balance. Childcare allows the primary caregiver,
usually the mother, to take time away from childrearing for employment.
Family policies that subsidize childcare and increase its availability have
different effects on female labor supply across countries. For policymakers
to determine how well these policies work, they should consider that policy
effectiveness may depend on country-specific pre-reform female employment
and earnings, and childcare availability, costs, and quality.
Basic skills in literacy and numeracy are
essential for success in the labor market
Even in OECD countries, where an increasing
proportion of the workforce has a university degree, the value of basic
skills in literacy and numeracy remains high. Indeed, in some countries the
return for such skills, in the form of higher wages, is sufficiently large
to suggest that they are in high demand and that there is a relative
scarcity. Policymakers need robust evidence in order to devise interventions
that genuinely improve basic skills, not just of new school leavers entering
the market, but also of the existing workforce. This would lead to
significant improvements in the population that achieves a minimum level of
literacy and numeracy.
Shortening secondary school duration may
increase the skilled workforce in aging societies
The main goal of secondary school education in
developed countries is to prepare students for higher education and the
labor market. That demands high investments in study duration and
specialized fields to meet rising skill requirements. However, these demands
for more education are in opposition to calls for early entry to the labor
market, to lengthen working lives to meet the rising costs associated with
an aging population and to enable the intergenerational transfer of skills.
One way to lengthen working lives is to shorten the duration of secondary
school, an option recently implemented in Canada and Germany. The empirical
evidence shows mixed effects.
Student sorting into classes complicates policies that utilize peer effects to optimize educational outcomes
The role of social interactions in modifying individual behavior is central to many fields of social science. In education, one essential aspect is that “good” peers can potentially improve students’ academic achievement, career choices, or labor market outcomes later in life. Indeed, evidence suggests that good peers are important in raising student attainment, both in compulsory schooling and university. Interventions that change the ability group composition in ways that improve student educational outcomes without exacerbating inequality therefore offer a promising basis for education policies.
What are the implications of childcare subsidies
for care quality, family well-being, and child development?
Most public expenditure on childcare in the US is made through a federal program, the Child Care and Development Fund
(CCDF), established as part of landmark welfare reform legislation in 1996.
The main goal of the reform was to increase employment and reduce welfare
dependence among low-income families. Childcare subsidies have been
effective in enabling parents to work, but apparently at some cost to the
well-being of parents and children.