Daycare will not reduce child poverty

October 16, 2003

Providing daycare facilities for poor families may not reduce child poverty - a key government objective, say researchers in this week's BMJ.

Daycare provision is considered essential to reducing family poverty because it allows mothers with young children to enter paid employment.

The study involved 120 mothers and 143 children (aged between 6 months and 3.5 years) living in Hackney, London. Children were randomly allocated to receive a daycare place (intervention group) or not (control group).

After 18 months, 23% more women who used the centre were in paid work compared to the control group, but they were no more likely to have a weekly income of above £200.

This trial provides some support for government initiatives based on the belief that daycare provision can increase maternal employment, say the authors. However, the results question the assumption that paid employment provides an immediate route out of poverty by increasing household income.

Tackling low pay, changing the benefit structure, and reducing the costs of day care to poor families may be equally important components of an anti-poverty strategy, they conclude.


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