Que­bec messes with kids

National Post (National Edition) - - FP COMMENT -

Af­ter the sad fi­asco of l’af­faire Pot­ter there’s a nat­u­ral re­luc­tance, a chill, to say any­thing re­motely crit­i­cal of Que­bec. But jour­nal­is­tic duty calls. A new study of the ef­fects of Que­bec’s heav­ily sub­si­dized day­care sys­tem — it costs $2.6 bil­lion a year, a new Fraser In­sti­tute re­port tells us — bears an im­por­tant les­son for Que­bec and every­where else. It’s not a new les­son. It’s prob­a­bly the sec­ond most im­por­tant les­son in eco­nomics, af­ter “There is no such thing as a free lunch,” but it bears re­peat­ing. It is: “Things are com­pli­cated. You never know what unintended con­se­quences you’ll pro­duce once you start tin­ker­ing.”

The study is by Steve Lehrer of Queen’s Univer­sity and Michael Kot­te­len­berg of Huron Univer­sity Col­lege in Lon­don, On­tario. It’s pub­lished by the pres­ti­gious Na­tional Bureau of Eco­nomic Re­search in Bos­ton and it’s called “Does Que­bec’s sub­si­dized child care pol­icy give boys and girls an equal start?” The an­swer? No.

It’s not that there are any sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ences in av­er­age out­comes be­tween boys and girls in var­i­ous mea­sures of abil­ity and well-be­ing as a re­sult of $5-a-day (now $7.50 a day) day­care. There aren’t, the authors con­cluded, af­ter some so­phis­ti­cated econo­met­rics. But the distri­bu­tion of some out­comes does change in sta­tis­ti­cally sig­nif­i­cant ways, with boys spread­ing them­selves out more along the spec­trum in their ex­pe­ri­ence of hy­per­ac­tiv­ity, inat­ten­tion and phys­i­cal ag­gres­sion. That’s not good, be­cause ex­treme val­ues on these three scales are rea­son­able pre­dic­tors of prob­lems later in life.

How par­ents par­ent also seems to change as a re­sult of cheap day­care, though not for the good, a con­se­quence I doubt pol­icy-mak­ers an­tic­i­pated when they were in­tro­duc­ing the pol­icy.

Lehrer and Kot­te­len­berg’s study is based on de­tailed, oneto-two-hour, face-to-face in­ter­views StatCan does ev­ery two years with tens of thou­sands of par­ents, so the data are pretty rich. And they’re linked with kids’ scores on tests of mo­tor skills, so­cial de­vel­op­ment, vo­cab­u­lary, hy­per­ac­tiv­ity, at­ten­tion, sep­a­ra­tion anx­i­ety and so on.

What are the ap­par­ent ef­fects of Que­bec’s day­care pol­icy?

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.