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Public Preschooling and Maternal Labor Force Participation in Rural India.

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Abstract

Mothers from poor families in India have a compelling need to work, but childcare for their young children is a constraint. This paper examines how far the public daycare helps in loosening this constraint. Todo this, I look at the effect on maternal labor force participation, of daycare implicit in the preschooling provided to young children, through India’s largest child development program - Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS). Besides preschooling, the ICDS program provides a whole package of other services, including supplementary feeding and immunization. Because of these services, I examine thevarious pathways through which the benefits on maternal employment can accrue: release of mother’s time from child supervision, improvement in health of young children and implicit income subsidy. For the analysis, I primarily use data from the recent demographic health survey data for 2005-6, which for the first time collected information on child level usage of ICDS services. Using probit, covariate matching and conditional logit (village-fixed effects), I find that the mother, whose child is receivinghighly correlated services of regular preschooling or daily supplementary feeding, is 12% more likely to work in rural India. This effect is being driven mainly by the rural Central, where such mothers are25% more likely to work. There is some evidence of positive effect in the rural South also. The investigation of mechanisms provides no support for those related to health benefits of daily supplementary feeding, or its implicit income subsidy. It seems that the effect is being driven mainly by daycare implicitin preschooling. There is also some evidence of health benefit mechanism through immunization received at the ICDS center. Further examination suggests lack of support for self-selection by motherinto daycare, because the children receiving regular feeding (highly correlated with daycare) are not anthropometrically better, and there is evidence of possible caste based discrimination against childrenfrom scheduled castes families in access to preschooling.

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