Quality and Compensation Project

This is a project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). It uses the You Bet I Care! data set, collected in 1998 to look at the determinants of quality and compensation of staff in full-day child care centres and regulated family home care in Canada. A description of the project and drafts of research papers are available through the buttons shown on this page. If you are doing related research or can think of research we should see, send us an e-mail at gordon@childcarepolicy.net

At the Western Economics Association Conference (Vancouver, June 30, 2004) a preliminary version of the paper on the factors which determine quality in child care centres was presented. Download the presentation slides in PDF format – The “recipe” for good quality early childhood care and education: do we know the key ingredients?.

Summary of Proposed Research

Over 75% of Canada’s young children (18 months to 5 years) use non-parental care in a typical week. The effects of these experiences on children depend on the quality of care received. The best available evidence suggests that in both Canada and the United States, much child care is custodial rather than developmental.

There is considerable uncertainty about the best ways to improve the quality of non- parental care that children receive. Most of the existing research on the factors which affect child care quality has been conducted by developmental psychologists concentrating on single variable relationships, or on the effects of a small number of potential quality determinants. Some key factors which are difficult to measure have been ignored; other factors which are easy to measure have been claimed as major determinants of quality, even though they are highly correlated with variables that may be the true determinants.

Economics provides a natural framework (the production function) for considering theoretically and empirically the role of different inputs to the amount of quality produced. The tools for measuring quality in child care have already been developed and extensively tested. Now, a group of uniquely appropriate Canadian data sets will allow us to use economic theory and econometric methodology to make important advances in determining the factors affecting child care quality.

This research project concentrates on analyzing the relationships in the production process between structural quality (child care characteristics which are subject to control by regulation) and process quality (the observed quality of interactions and experiences), and on the effects of the auspice of the child care arrangement (ownership/management structure) and the compensation of child care staff on process quality in both child care centres and licensed family homes in Canada. The key analytical objective of this research is to determine the paths by which and the extent to which various factors affect the different dimensions of child care quality supplied. The key policy objective is to identify which factors influencing the quality of early childhood care are good candidates for public or private encouragement and which are not.

The results of this research program will have three main applications:
(a) To public policy on early childhood care: In the last several years, every province has announced early childhood development initiatives, some of them very broad-ranging. This research speaks to the effectiveness of public regulation of quality, of subsidization of quality, and the role of professional development and occupational self-regulation.
(b) To the analysis of the effects of early childhood care on children: It is very difficult to assess the long run impacts of different features of child care on children’s development. A simpler but strongly-related question is to assess the impact of different features of child care on quality measures that are themselves strongly predictive of child development. A test of this simpler question becomes a test of the underlying theoretical model.

(c) To future data collection: Most child care surveys only collect data about structural features of quality. However, if structural quality is not consistently predictive of process quality, then on-site observations are essential for empirical work involving quality as a variable; our research will determine the reliability of structural measures as proxies.

For more information about this project, please download the PDF of the SSHRC application.