All childcare programs are not alike. New research by HCEO Co-director James J. Heckman and co-authors provides evidence that low-quality childcare can actually have harmful effects on child development, particularly for boys. "Gender Differences in the Benefits of an Influential Early Childhood Program," by Professor Heckman, ECI network member Jorge Luis García, and CEHD research professional Anna Ziff, also helps elucidate recent claims about the harm caused by childcare programs.
The authors compare gender differences in the treatment effects from two early childhood programs, The Carolina Abecedarian Project (ABC) and the Carolina Approach to Responsive Education (CARE), to control groups who either stayed home or attended a low-quality program. Launched in North Carolina in the 1970s, ABC/CARE participants began the program at 8 weeks of age and continued until age 5, with long-term follow-ups through age 35. It was an intensive, high-quality program targeting disadvantaged children and their families that combined health, nutrition, family engagement, childcare, and early learning.
The program produced positive impacts across the life cycle for both genders, yet with significant differences. The paper notes that "high-quality childcare greatly benefits boys relative to low-quality childcare." Boys also have better outcomes if they stay home, which is not true for girls. Females in the treatment group had more outcomes across multiple domains, yet males had greater monetary benefits, in part due to a reduction in criminal activity, as shown in "The Life-cycle Benefits of an Influential Early Childhood Program" by Heckman et al.