Child Care Subsidies and Childhood Obesity

Chris Herbst, Arizona State University
Erdal Tekin, Georgia State University

Child care subsidies are an important part of federal and state efforts to facilitate the transition of low-income families from welfare to work. Although a large literature examines the impact of subsidies on mothers’ employment and child care utilization, researchers have largely ignored the question of whether they have implications for child development, including obesity. Perhaps the most important channel through which child care subsidies can influence obesity is the level of quality that parents are able to purchase. Using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort, we examine the relationship between subsidies and obesity for children of single mothers (N=3,186). To account for the non-random assignment of subsidies to low-income families, we estimate regression models that include county fixed effects and instrumental variables. Our preliminary findings are consistent across both estimators: participation in subsidized child care increases the likelihood of being overweight and at-risk of overweight.

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Presented in Session 39: Public Policy and Child Outcomes