A Level Playground? Public Preferences for Equality Enhancing Policies in Early Child Care

About this Session


Thu. 11.04.'24 10:20



Abstract :

Early child care is a pivotal policy tool to foster societal integration, enabling underprivileged groups to actively participate in society by positively impacting children’s development (Cornelissen et al., 2018) and supporting parents’ employment (Hermes et al., 2022). However, despite its potential to equalize opportunities, migrant children often face difficulties accessing child care due to complex admission procedures (Hermes et al., 2021) and discriminatory practices (Hermes et al., 2023). This contributes to the substantial migrant-native enrollment gap in early child care in Germany (Jessen et al., 2020).

This study investigates the perspectives of the German population regarding this issue, delving into their preferences for policies that could foster equality in early child care. To this end, we utilized a representative survey (n ~ 6,000), introducing a series of survey experiments.

Results show that people underestimate the enrollment gap between migrants and natives, effectively underestimating inequality. Additionally, their beliefs about migrant-native gaps in early child care are imprecise, suggesting a lack of knowledge about the market. The beliefs also correlate with demographic characteristics such as age, education, and policy preferences. As for their preferred policies, participants mainly support additional child care slots and a centralized admission system.

Information about migrant-native gaps shifts people’s perception towards a more taste-based nature of inequalities in early child care. However, information has only a minimal impact on related policy preferences. To delve deeper into this phenomenon, we applied causal forest analysis, allowing us to scrutinize the heterogeneity in treatment effects. This analysis reveals that individuals alter their policy preferences based on their initial beliefs regarding the market’s receptiveness towards migrants, a significant indicator of discrimination. Notably, participants who previously underestimated the migrant-native gaps showed a heightened propensity to support policies fostering equality once presented with the actual data and vice versa.

Furthermore, we discover a tendency among right-wing party voters to reduce support for equality-enhancing policies upon being informed about the migrant-native gap, corroborating the theory that policy preferences are substantially shaped by pre-existing beliefs (Braghieri et al., 2021).

In sum, our findings suggest that dissemination of information can reduce polarization in policy discussions, fostering a more unified approach to policy discussion and implementation. Contrary to the polarization increase indicated in some studies (e.g., Haaland & Roth, 2023) or the negligible effects highlighted in others (e.g., Alesina et al., 2023), our research underscores the crucial role of information in nurturing consensus in policy deliberations.