The point of departure is a policy that provided free part-time child care for four- and five-year old children in some city districts in Oslo (Alna, Stovner, Grorud, Bjerke and Søndre Nordstrand) from 2006 (2007) and onwards. The aim of the policy was to increase participation in child care, contribute to socialization and improved proficiency in the Norwegian language among children with immigrant background, strengthen the language stimulation in child care centers, and help improve contact between parents and centers.
This third follow-up report explores how the children fare on nationwide tests in reading and mathematics in eighth grade. It is difficult to rule out that children in districts with free child care are different from children without such a policy in ways that are difficult to measure. Hence, I use available data on how the children performed on the eighth grade tests before the free part time child care policy was introduced, and study the results from a difference-in-difference model. This makes it easier to assess the reliability of interpreting the results as effects of the policy.
The difference-in-difference estimates indicate that children affected by free part time child care have a higher likelihood of scoring above a certain threshold on the reading test. Other outcomes are not affected. The positive estimate for reading does imply that the students' language skills have improved, in line with the goal of the policy. However, there is substantial variation in the estimates over cohorts, and this makes it difficult to draw solid conclusions about causal effects.
When I look more closely at effects for different groups of children, there is a tendency of a stronger effect for boys on the 8th grade national tests in reading compared to for girls. For the group of children with a mother who is not working, I find improved results for both reading and mathematics, in line with what we have found in earlier studies. As with previous results, we see no effect on children who have a working mother. We see a similar pattern for children from families with income above/below the median. Improved reading results are driven by children from families with low income. These findings correspond to former findings where we looked at the effects of the policy on child care use.