Kindergarten for All: Long-run Effects of a Universal Intention
Nina Drange, Tarjei Havnes and Astrid M. J. Sandsør
Theory and evidence point towards particularly positive effects of high-quality child care for disadvantaged children. At the same time, disadvantaged families often sort out of existing programs. To counter differences in learning outcomes between children from different socioeconomic backgrounds, governments are pushing for universal child care. However, it is unclear how effective programs with universal participation may be at addressing the needs of disadvantaged children. We provide evidence on the long-run effect on schooling of mandating kindergarten at age 5–6. Our identifying variation comes from a reform that lowered school starting-age from 7 to 6 in Norway in 1997. The new program was designed as a low intensity kindergarten program, similar to voluntary child care programs available before mandating. Our precise DD estimates reveal hardly any effect, both overall, across subsamples, and over the grading distribution. A battery of specification checks support our empirical strategy.