child development

Not Only Does Child Care Benefit Moms, It Can Help Boys Lead Amazing Lives

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There isn’t a working parent alive who isn’t grateful for child care, right? Yes, it’s expensive. Many times, prohibitively so. I have a toddler at home, and it doesn’t make financial sense to put her in full-time day care, even though I work full-time. I would LOVE to, but I’d be pretty much working to pay for it. Affordable, high-quality child care shouldn’t be a privilege, it should be a right. And as it turns out, it does more than just help out parents. Child care benefits sons, in some pretty long-lasting and impactful ways!

Most of us think about child care in terms of how it helps parents.

Sure, the socialization is beneficial to children, but for the majority of working parents, that’s not the reason we put our kids in day care or preschool. But new research shows that child care benefits sons, even more so than daughters, and the benefits stretch far into adulthood.

A study published by the University of Chicago shows that access to high-quality child care can have a huge impact on success in the adult years. Researchers looked at long-term data from two programs in North Carolina that provided black singles moms with free, full-time child care for kids from 8 weeks to 5 years old. The kids who were enrolled in these programs went on to earn more as adults, and were healthier than the children in the control group.

Interestingly, the impact of high-quality child care on boys was more evident.

The boys who took part in the programs had about six additional months of schooling overall, and earned an average of $19,800 more annually when they reached the age of 30 when compared to the control group. Girls in the program had two more years of education and made about $2,800 more per year by the time they turned 30. Also, the men who were enrolled in the programs as boys were 33% less likely to use drugs, have a criminal record, or have high blood pressure by their mid-30’s.

So how do researchers explain why high-quality child care benefits sons more?

One explanation could be that boys are more vulnerable to the effects of poverty. So early childhood intervention is more impactful in their lives. Another study, this one published by Northwestern University in 2015, showed that boys from low-income households had higher rates of truancy and behavioral problems than girls. Boys from low-income families were also more likely to commit crimes, and less likely to graduate from high school.

Access to high-quality and affordable child care benefits families in so many ways. But knowing how much child care benefits sons in the long run really drives home the point that it should be available to all families, no matter where they fall on the class scale.

(Image: iStock/Lordn)