Thesis - Open Access
Bachelor of Arts
Christopher Andrew James Cotter, Chair
Universal preschool, Synthetic controls, Education policy, Free preschool, Maternal labor force participation, Labor force participation rate
The United States lags far behind other developed countries in terms of preschool provision and access. Because subsidized preschool effectively serves as childcare for enrolled students, preschool policies have ramifications in the labor market; namely, whether or not parents return to work after having children. This paper investigates the only two state-wide universal pre-k programs in the country, those of Florida and Vermont. I use a synthetic controls approach in order to address the impact these programs have had on maternal labor force participation rates in each state. I find that while Vermont’s pre-k policy may have produced a significant increase in maternal labor force participation, the results from Florida’s policy are insignificant. This outcome suggests that differences in how the policies have been implemented drive whether or not the policy has meaningful impacts on mothers’ decisions to rejoin the labor force. Vermont offers more full-day options than Florida, although both programs are only free for half-day provision; additionally, Florida offers programming for children ages 4 and up, while Vermont offers programming for children 3 and up. Finally, I suggest other routes to explore which may aid pre-k policies in making it more accessible for mothers to return to work: these include more targeted programs, more full-day options, and subsidized (rather than free) provisions.
Keidan, Hannah, "Universal Preschool and Maternal Labor Force Participation: Evidence from Florida and Vermont" (2022). Honors Papers. 851.