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Application barriers and the socioeconomic gap in child care enrollment

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Hermes, H., Lergetporer, P., Peter, F., & Wiederhold, S.
Publication Date: 
1 Apr 2024


Why are children with lower socioeconomic status (SES) substantially less likely to be enrolled in child care? We study whether barriers in the application process work against lower-SES children — the group known to benefit strongest from child care enrollment. In an RCT in Germany with highly subsidized child care (N = 607), we offer treated families information and personal assistance for applications. We find substantial, equity-enhancing effects of the treatment, closing half of the large SES gap in child care enrollment. Increased enrollment for lower-SES families is likely driven by altered application knowledge and behavior. We discuss scalability of our intervention and derive policy implications for the design of universal child care programs.