Proponents of universal day care often claim that institutional care is good for children, and meets the needs of parents. Further, they argue that it makes good fiscal sense, because it gets parents back into the paid workforce sooner and grows the economy. A decade after Quebec instituted universal, heavily subsidized care, an analysis from MIT makes clear that none of these assertions stand up to reality. With home day cares in that province preparing to unionize and further increase the cost of this program to taxpayers, the findings of the study deserve a close look.
Research on very young children in full-time care has always revealed at best mixed outcomes. Minor gains in school readiness come at the cost of more aggressive behaviour and disobedience, and more frequent physical illness. MIT's assessment of Quebec's new child-care regime shows that young children there are significantly more likely, compared with kids in other provinces, to show signs of hyperactivity and anxiety, and suffer more nose and throat infections. This is bad news for these children and their families, and it also signals higher health-care costs, and increased strain on schools as they face a wave of children with more behavioural problems.