26 April 2024

Dagmar starts daycare earlier - and that has no essential effect on her


According to Statistics Denmark, new parents take a total of 15 days less parental leave after the reform. What are the consequences of children starting daycare even earlier? CEBI's Sarah Sander has some answers, based on research by her and her co-authors Mette Gørtz from CEBI and Vibeke Myrup Jensen from VIVE.

AI generated illustration by firefly

What the average two weeks earlier start means for the individual tumbling is difficult to test. Of course, it is far from random who rushes back to work and who finds it a little difficult to let go of their young child. But the researchers can use a so-called "natural experiment":

“We use data from the waiting lists for daycare institutions in Copenhagen. We can use this to compare children who have registered for the same institutions and wanted to start at the same time, but who by chance end up starting at different times,” explains Sarah Sander.

In the new working paper, they look at 30,000 Copenhagen children born between 2009 and 2015 who enrolled in municipal daycare. On average, they start daycare at 10.8 months - but some children happen to start a month earlier or later than the average, and it is this small deviation from the average that the researchers look at.

Here they can see that those who happen to start daycare a little earlier go to the doctor a little more during their first time in the institution. On the other hand, the same group of children seems to do slightly better in the compulsory language tests:

"It does not seem to be harmful for the children to start daycare a month earlier, and we think this is a rather important point in relation to the discussion that has taken place in connection with the introduction of the new rules on earmarked parental leave for fathers," says Sarah Sander, who is a postdoctoral researcher at CEBI, Department of Economics, UCPH, and one of the authors of the study.

"We often discuss the quality of Danish childcare, but by international standards it is actually quite good, and under these conditions it does not seem to make much difference whether a child starts a month earlier or later," says Sarah Sander.