Case Management or Child Care: Which Has the Greater Impact on Parental Human Capital and Self-Sufficiency in Two-Generation Programs?
- Because federally-funded, “two-generation” early childhood programs provide parent- and child-focused services together, previous research has been unable to disentangle the independent effects of each service on family economic outcomes.
- This study exploits recent advances in instrumental variables methods to estimate impacts on multiple mediators in evaluations such as the Early Head Start Research Evaluation in which random assignment to program services is conducted separately across many program sites.
- Findings suggest that receiving case management focused on improving parental education and employment outcomes generated positive effects on parental education, employment, and family resources, whereas receiving cost-free child care did not.
- These findings affirm both existing scientific theory and decisions made by program designers and implementers to offer both parent- and child-focused services to parents with low incomes after their child is born.
An important gap in the literature on two-generation early intervention programs, which provide case-management services to parents with low incomes and center-based child care to their very young children, is understanding which intervention components (mediators) have the largest impact on parental education and economic self-sufficiency outcomes. This article helps fill the gap by rigorously examining the relative effects of providing case-management referrals and subsidized center-based child care using randomized controlled trial data from Mathematica’s seminal Early Head Start Research Evaluation. The analysis uses recent instrumental variable statistical methods to identify mediator effects by linking experimental impacts on the mediators and parent outcomes across 17 sites. The key finding is that parents’ receipt of case management appears to be the most important explanation for cross-site variation in impacts on parental human capital and self-sufficiency outcomes.