The increased demand for child care accompanying the rise of two-earner couples is attracting the attention of policy makers and researchers alike. In the United States, most child care is provided by the private market, and child care subsidies are predo minantly targeted at single mothers who are either on welfare or making the transition from welfare to work. An alternative model is supplied by the universal public programs found in the Scandinavian countries where all children are eligible for subsidiz ed child care, regardless of parents' employment and marital status. Many developed countries currently consider a move towards subsidized, widely accessible child care, as offered in the Scandinavian countries.
An important argument for early childhood education and care (ECEC) programs is that good access to affordable child care is important to facilitate child development. This claim is supported by a number of studies showing that ECEC programs can generate learning gains in the short-run and, in m any cases, improve long-run prospects of children. While the results are encouraging, the programs evaluated were unusually intensive and involved small numbers of particularly disadvantaged children from a few cities in the US. A major concern is therefo re that this evidence may tell us little about the effects of early childhood education and care programs offered to the entire population.
Our research program contributes to a small but rapidly growing literature on the effects on child development of large-scale ECEC programs. Using micro data from Norway, Denmark, France and the US, we will apply statistical methods designed to analyze observational data to investigate the relation between child development and
1) The Norwegian child care system
2) T he organization of child care in different developed countries
3) Paid parental leave and out-of-home child care