Panel: Disparate Impacts and Unintended Consequences – Taking the Complexity Seriously in ECE Markets
(Family and Child Policy)

Thursday, November 7, 2019: 1:45 PM-3:15 PM
Plaza Building: Concourse Level, Plaza Court 7 (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Organizer:  Jonathan Borowsky, University of Minnesota
Panel Chair:  Elizabeth Davis, University of Minnesota
Discussants:  Daphna Bassok, University of Virginia and Clare Sanford, New Horizons; Minnesota Child Care Association

Understanding the variety and complexity of Early Childhood Education (ECE) systems is crucial to developing ECE policy that supports both efficiency and equity. ECE has been described by many commentators as a “non-system”, where services are supplied by a mix of private and public providers, and supported by federal, state, and local governments through both subsidies and direct provision.

This complexity matters for policy-making. A policy may have unintended consequences because of its effect on the number and type of ECE providers, an intervention may benefit different individuals or groups differently because its mechanism is mediated by variation in the market structure of ECE provision, or because different individuals have different substitution options. This panel presents four papers that increase our understanding of the complexity in ECE systems in different contexts.

Paper 1 uses a geographically-nuanced difference-in-difference strategy and provider-level panel data from New York to examine the effect of public pre-K for 4-year-olds on the provision of private child care for younger children ages 0-2. The paper shows that New York City's Universal Pre-K expansion had important unintended consequences. By inducing exit and depressing entry of private centers, Universal Pre-K reduced the number of slots for young children, who were not served by the expansion of public care. This effect is concentrated in neighborhoods with high poverty.

Paper 2 also studies the effect of the New York City Universal Pre-K expansion, focusing on quality disparities within public Pre-K. White students receive services from higher-quality providers than black or Hispanic students, with the quality gap being particularly large between white students and black students. The paper shows that high quality providers are less available in areas with a high proportion of black residents, suggesting that geographic disparities may be an important driver of racial disparities.

Paper 3 introduces a structural model to understand the effects of Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) on local child care markets in Minnesota. Providers’ decisions to participate reflect variation in demand as well as considerations of strategic differentiation to reduce the intensity of competition. The paper extends Seim's classic model of entry and spatial differentiation to interpret the observed distribution of provider types and locations as the equilibrium of an entry game.

Paper 4 takes a holistic approach to studying the effects of different policy interventions in Minnesota. The paper merges multiple public and administrative sources to create comprehensive data on geographic and temporal variation in ECE funding flows related to several different subsidy programs. Using this policy variation, the paper estimates the per-dollar impact of each program on a variety of outcomes including local capacity, high-quality capacity, price, and composite access measures.

These papers apply a variety of methodological approaches, but each uses administrative data to tackle policy-relevant questions about disparate impacts and unintended consequences of ECE policies. Taken together, they present new research perspectives on the interactions between policy and the systems of ECE provision, and offer tools and insights to guide policy that rises to the challenge of the ECE field.

Racial Disparities in Universal Pre-K in New York City
Scott Latham1, Jennifer Jennings1, Sean Corcoran2 and Carolyn Sattin-Bajaj3, (1)Princeton University, (2)Vanderbilt University, (3)Seton Hall University

Effects of State ECE Subsidies on the Child Care Market in Minnesota
Won F. Lee, Aaron Sojourner and Elizabeth Davis, University of Minnesota

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