Quality Differences of Public, For-Profit and Nonprofit Providers in Scandinavian Welfare? User Satisfaction in Kindergartens

  • Håkon Solbu TrættebergEmail author
  • Audun Fladmoe
Original Paper


Research on differences between public, for-profit, and nonprofit providers of welfare services has provided mixed findings, depending on welfare state arrangement, regulation, and service area. This paper’s objective is to study the differences between public, nonprofit (cooperatives and other nonprofits), and for-profit welfare providers from the perspective of the users in the tightly regulated Scandinavian context. We ask how the users perceive the providers from different sectors differently and how this variation can be explained. The study relies on a large-scale survey carried out in 2015 in the city of Oslo, Norway. From the survey, we identify the two main results. First, despite limited differences, users of nonprofit kindergartens are generally more satisfied than users of for-profit and public kindergartens. Second, an important explanation for variations in user satisfaction among kindergartens is identified in a pocket of regulatory leniency: the quality of food service. This is the only expense that varies among kindergartens in Norway. These results indicate that more lenient regulations could potentially increase provider distinctiveness. Based on the existing literature, we discuss why nonprofit providers seem to fare better in the minds of users than public and for-profit providers.


Kindergarten Nonprofit provision Cooperatives Scandinavia User satisfaction Welfare 



The authors would like to thank the editors and two anonymous referees for their constructive feedback. An earlier version of this article was presented at the Politikkseminar at the Institute for Social Research, Oslo, and at the ISTR Conference in Amsterdam in 2018. We greatly appreciate all comments from the seminar participants. Thanks to Jo Kristoffer Herland for research assistance.


Funding was provided by Norges Forskningsråd (NO) (Grant No. 248189).


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Copyright information

© International Society for Third-Sector Research 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Social ResearchOsloNorway

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