In most countries, parents struggle to find a balance between providing quality childcare and pursuing their education or career due to limited resources. Wladis et al. (2018) report that “postsecondary outcomes are significantly worse for student parents even though they earn higher GPA’s on average” (p. 807). In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, households with children are found to be most affected at both financial and mental levels (Cheng et al., 2021). Therefore, it is important to explore the role of childcare policies in supporting education and employment rates since governmental support improves human capital growth and increases female labor supply, which is critical for the economy.
The research question is as follows: does free childcare enable parents to get back to work and college at ease? The need for this study is determined by the literature gap with regard to parental return to study since most scholars focus exclusively on the aspect of work (Zoch, 2020). A mixed methodology will be utilized for this research to conduct quantitative and qualitative analyses to explore the different views and experiences of participants regarding the efficiency of free childcare. This paper includes the following sections: introduction, literature review, proposed hypotheses, proposed methodology, research implications and applicability, and conclusion.
As a rule, parents to newborns, especially first-time parents, find it challenging to resume their normal lives mainly due to a lack of financial resources. Despite the abundance of studies on this topic and the existence of major trends in the results, it can be concluded that findings have not been consistent (Brewer et al., 2022; Ruppanner et al., 2019). Many scholars emphasize the importance of early childcare for a child’s growth and development since it is the initial phase of the education system (Zoch, 2020; Cheng et al., 2021). As a result, access to free childcare can support low-income families and contribute to positive educational outcomes.
Parents’ financial struggles and limited resources prevent many children from attending kindergartens, which makes them prone to education disparities and learning difficulties. Furthermore, most researchers argue that there is a positive relationship between childcare provision and maternal employment and return to education, which advocates for the need for accessible and convenient childcare (Zoch, 2020; Wladis et al., 2018). Boosting the female education and labor force promotes economic self-sufficiency, especially in economically disadvantaged families.
However, there are potential challenges and disadvantages of implementing free childcare that must be considered when developing a relevant policy. In particular, findings by Brewer et al. (2022) reveal that a free childcare policy is an income transfer for many families, which does not increase childcare use. Furthermore, it should be noted that many scholars highlight such drawbacks as promoting social inequalities. Zoch (2020) claims that free childcare favors well-off families more than disadvantaged ones, while less-educated parents have limited access to formal childcare. Besides, access criteria to such childcare centers will favor highly educated women who work more hours than their counterparts, leading to inequality. The ongoing pandemic can aggravate the problem by increasing the socio-economic gap (Cheng et al., 2021). Therefore, there is a need for a comprehensive study to evaluate whether free childcare enables parents to return to work and study, as well as determine ways to implement an effective policy.
The theory of social inequality is applicable to this research since parents’ socio-economic factors play a critical role in their access to resources and childcare opportunities. Other researches highlight such factors related to parental return to work and study as social disparities. They argue that a free childcare policy aids children that least need it, emphasizing the effect of social inequality on the policy (Zoch, 2020). Widening the existing socio-economic gap contrasts with the aims of the policy. Thus, it is essential to explore the problem from various aspects and identify ways to enhance childcare provision to promote parents’ education and employment.
Methodologies Used in Past Research
The existing research focuses on the policy effects on education, unemployment rate, and child development. Most studies on the impact of free childcare on maternal labor supply exploited quantitative methods and used government data on childcare coverage and mothers’ daily activities for ten years (Ruppaner et al., 2019). Scholars utilized the document analysis method by accessing files of staff from various companies as well as files of students from various colleges in the country. Qualitative methods were adopted to explain dropout cases and high turnover rates among new parents (Brewer et al., 2021). Overall, based on previous findings, this study will combine the qualitative and quantitative methods to acquire a better understanding of the problem and evaluate the efficiency of free childcare.
- Free childcare will improve parental return to education and the labor force.
- Free childcare will have no effect on parental return to education and the labor force.
This research will adopt mixed methods to address the problem of governmental childcare support and its effects on parental return to study and work. In particular, a quantitative approach will be used to analyze data to understand general relationships and patterns regarding the length of parental leave and coverage and their consequences for return to work and study. The qualitative method will be implemented to obtain survey data to explore the different views and experiences of participants regarding the efficiency of free childcare.
To conduct quantitative analysis, a survey of American parents will be carried out online with regard to parental leave length and coverage and their consequences for return to work and study. The population will include both mothers and fathers who experienced difficulties returning to work or college due to childcare. The key variables of this study are parental coverage and length and the rates of return to work and college, which will be measured according to the survey data. The questions will be about the length of the occupation or education level, work hours per week, involvement in childcare, and last parental leave.
The qualitative analysis will be carried out based on the semi-structured interview data obtained from the target population. The perspectives of both mothers and fathers regarding the efficiency of free childcare will be studied. The key variables in this analysis will be the demographic data, such as age, income, race, education, and employment, as well as parental opinions on the efficiency of free childcare. The perspectives will be analyzed to determine patterns and associate them with the socio-economic characteristics of the participants. The questions will be about the expected effects of free childcare on the household and the participants’ willingness to return to work or study.
Research Implications and Applicability
Studying the effect of free childcare provision on parents’ willingness to return to work or college is important for society because education and labor force participation can be hindered by individuals’ limited resources for childcare. Most studies focus on the consequences of childbirth for the workforce participation of parents. This research will address the literature gap as it evaluates the societal and economic impact of promoting free childcare policy on parental return to both work and study. Furthermore, the positive and negative impact of free childcare policy will be highlighted, from elevating the disadvantaged population to widening the gap between the well-off and economically challenged families.
The study will provide data and research findings that government policymakers could use to implement an efficient free child care policy and make it accessible to economically challenged individuals. In doing so, the government will ensure that young and disadvantaged families get a chance to continue with college or return to the workforce as a way of addressing the rising unemployment rate. The use of both quantitative and qualitative methods will provide data for in-depth analysis of various aspects of the problem and highlight different perspectives of parents on free childcare. Overall, the societal implications of this research project can improve parental return to work and study and promote social equality.
To conclude, this research will focus on evaluating the impact of free childcare provision on parents’ willingness to return to work or college. This topic will help address the literature gap by providing findings on the single parent’s readiness to return to education based on the availability of free childcare. Overall, this study contributes to the existing knowledge by evaluating the societal and economic impact of governmental support on young and disadvantaged families.
Brewer, M., Cattan, S., Crawford, C., & Rabe, B. (2022). Does more free childcare help parents work more?. Labour Economics, 74, 102100. Web.
Cheng, Z., Mendolia, S., Paloyo, A. R., Savage, D. A., & Tani, M. (2021). Working parents, financial insecurity, and childcare: mental health in the time of COVID-19 in the UK. Review of Economics of the Household, 19(1), 123-144. Web.
Ruppanner, L., Moller, S., & Sayer, L. (2019). Expensive childcare and short school days = lower maternal employment and more time in childcare? Evidence from the American time use survey. Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World, 5, 1-14. Web.
Wladis, C., Hachey, A. C., & Conway, K. (2018). No time for college? An investigation of time poverty and parenthood. The Journal of Higher Education, 89(6), 807-831. Web.
Zoch, G. (2020). Public childcare provision and employment participation of East and West German mothers with different educational backgrounds. Journal of European Social Policy, 30(3), 370-385. Web.