Journal of Population Economics

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 393–422

Can’t buy mommy’s love? Universal childcare and children’s long-term cognitive development

  • Christina Felfe
  • Natalia Nollenberger
  • Núria Rodríguez-Planas
Original Paper


What happens to children’s long-run cognitive development when introducing universal high-quality childcare for 3-year-olds mainly crowds out family care? To answer this question, we take advantage of a sizeable expansion of publicly subsidized full-time high-quality childcare for 3-year-olds in Spain in the early 1990s. Identification relies on variation in the initial speed of the expansion of childcare slots across states. Using a difference-in-difference approach, we find strong evidence for sizeable improvements in children’s reading skills at age 15 (0.15 standard deviation) and weak evidence for a reduction in grade retentions during primary school (2.5 percentage points). The effects are driven by girls and disadvantaged children.


Universal high-quality childcare Long-term consequences Cognitive skills 

JEL Classification

J13 I28 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christina Felfe
    • 1
    • 2
  • Natalia Nollenberger
    • 3
  • Núria Rodríguez-Planas
    • 4
    • 5
  1. 1.Universität St. GallenSt. GallenSwitzerland
  2. 2.CESifoMunichGermany
  3. 3.School of Business and ManagementQueen Mary University of LondonLondonUK
  4. 4.Queens CollegeCUNYQueensUSA
  5. 5.IZABonnGermany

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