The impact of daycare programs on child health, nutrition and development in developing countries: a systematic review

The impact of daycare programs on child health, nutrition and development in developing countries: a systematic review

Urbanisation and increases in female labour market participation have increased the demand for non-parental childcare in many low and middle-income countries. Especially in formal sector jobs, work and caring for one’s child cannot be combined. Government daycare programs currently under way in several developing countries seek to promote labour force participation through relieving one of the most pressing constraints faced by working parents, especially mothers, i.e. access to reliable and affordable childcare. Whilst there are a number of impact evaluations of day care interventions in developing countries, no systematic review of the literature has been conducted.

This report offers a review of impact evaluations examining the impact of daycare interventions on the health, nutrition and development of children under five years of age in low- and middle-income countries. It also uses a programme impact theory approach to identify the pathways through which daycare may improve child outcomes. The third objective was to review the available information on the demand for daycare services.

Only 6 studies (all conducted in Latin America) met the  inclusion criteria. In general, large positive effects on measures of short and longer term child development were found. Due to inconsistent results, no conclusions can be drawn with respect to the impact on child health and nutrition. More rigorously conducted studies on the impact of daycare programmess in low and middle income countries are needed. These should be conducted in a variety of settings and provide a clear description of the counterfactual care scenarios. Intermediary variables that help explain the pathways of impact need to be measured and taken into account in the analyses.

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