How Day-Care Availability Impacts Parental Well-Being: Interdependencies with Culture and Resources

Saturday, 4 July 2015: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
TW1.2.03 (Tower One)
Pia Schober, German Institute for Economic Research, Berlin, Germany
Juliane Stahl, German Institute for Economic Research, Berlin, Germany
This study investigates whether and how expanding day-care availability has improved parents’ ability to reconcile employment and family life in Germany. Compared to most previous studies, we apply a life course perspective and focus specifically on parents with children under school aged, the target group of recent day-care policy reforms. The paper extends and clarifies contradictory results of previous studies by demonstrating that the effects on parental subjective well-being depend on local work-care cultures and vary by gender, child age, and individual resources. This is achieved through detailed comparisons between East and West Germany, by educational attainment of mothers, and between partnered and lone mothers. The theoretical framework draws on and extends the demands and resources approach toward perceived work-family balance (Voydanoff 2005) by considerations of work-care cultures (e.g., Kremer 2007).

The empirical analysis links individual-level data from the Socio-Economic Panel for 2007 to 2012 and from the ‘Families in Germany‘-Study for 2010 to 2012 with annual administrative records on day-care provision at county level in East and West Germany. We apply fixed-effects panel models to just over 5,000 families with a youngest child under school age. By following families over several years and linking maternal labour market return with changes in parents’ subjective well-being in local contexts with differing and changing day-care availability, we are able to provide more rigorous analyses and a more nuanced understanding of the day-care policy effects.

First of all, our results show significant effects only for subjective well-being of mothers but not of fathers. Secondly, we find stronger effects of the extension of opening hours to full-day care for children aged zero to six than for the expansion of places for children under three years. Thirdly, the findings provide support for work-care cultures and individual resources, in particular presence of a partner, being important moderators of the effects of day-care availability on maternal subjective wellbeing. Greater local day-care provision for children under three years compensates for otherwise negative associations of maternal full-time employment with subjective wellbeing in East Germany, whereas West German mothers’ wellbeing is not significantly affected by the expansion for under threes.  By contrast, greater full-day care availability for all children aged below school age offsets otherwise negative effects of maternal full-time employment on subjective wellbeing in West Germany and among low educated mothers. Greater local availability of full-day care is generally more positively associated with maternal satisfaction with wellbeing of mothers in East Germany and for highly educated mothers. Lone mothers become more satisfied with family life when they start to use full-day care, irrespective of the child’s age or their employment status. This suggests that they used day-care to be better able to meet the demands in the family domain as much as those in the work domain. On the whole, we conclude that in particular the expansion of full-day child care has reduced inequalities in subjective wellbeing between mothers and fathers and between lone mothers and partnered mothers but not between education groups.