The Effects of Daycare Reconsidered
NBER Working Paper No. 6769
Do children of employed mothers differ from other children, even before mother's (re)entry to the labor force? Preexisting differences among children may be an alternative explanation for many apparent daycare outcome effects. Data from the 1994 wave of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth were available for 6603 singleton infants followed from birth. Mothers of children with intrauterine growth retardation, birth defects, or extended hospitalization at birth began working significantly later after the birth of the child, and mothers of infants with higher development scores and more difficult temperament, and mothers of healthy premature infants, began working significantly earlier. The associations with newborn health persisted when the comparisons were made among siblings. The magnitudes of the effects were large enough to have practical importance. After controlling for both observed and unobserved differences between families, a mother was only 50% as likely to have been employed at all in the first five years after the birth of a high risk infant. About 20% of low-income newborns in the sample were classified as problems may therefore have resulted in a 10% lower labor force participation rate among low-income mothers of children under five.