For Immediate Release: January 22, 2014
Scholars from the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW) at Wellesley College have recently published research findings on employment--one study focused on access to affordable child care for working, low-income mothers in Massachusetts, two others tracked cognitive skills in education and STEM-immigration employment trends, in Finland and the United States, respectively.
Employment and Access to Affordable Child Care
"Subsidized child care, maternal employment and access to quality, affordable child care," an article on child care subsidies authored by Nancy Marshall, Ed.D., WCW associate director and Senior Research Scientists Wendy Wagner Robeson, Ed.D, Allison Tracy, Ph.D., Alice Frye, Ph.D., and Joanne Roberts, Ph.D., is included in Early Childhood Research Quarterly, Volume 28 (4th Quarter 2013). To examine whether state child care subsidy policies can combine goals of increasing maternal employment and increasing access to quality child care for children in low-income families, the research team studied one state’s comprehensive policy, through a cross-sectional survey of 665 randomly selected families using centers, Head Start programs, family child care homes, public school preschools, or informal care, including a sample of families on the waitlist for child care subsidies.
The researchers found that, in Massachusetts, families receiving child care subsidies report greater access to child care, more affordable child care, and higher quality child care, than do similar families not receiving subsidies. Lower-income families not receiving subsidies can sometimes access affordable, quality child care through Head Start and public preschools, but, when they must pay for care, they pay a significantly greater proportion of their income than do families receiving subsidies. The team also found that families on the subsidy waitlist are at a particular disadvantage as they have the greatest difficulty paying for care, the least access, and the poorest quality child care. While the child care subsidy policies benefited those families receiving subsidies, families outside the system still struggled to find affordable child care.
Tracking Cognitive Skills in Education and STEM-Immigration Employment Trends
Sari Pekkala Kerr, Ph.D., WCW senior research scientist and economist, co-authored “School Tracking and Development of Cognitive Skills” with Tuomas Pekkarinen, Ph.D. and Roope Uusitalo, Ph.D., published in the Journal of Labor Economics, Vol. 31 (No. 3), 2013. The researchers evaluated the effects of the Finnish school system on mathematical, verbal, and logical reasoning skills using data from the country’s comprehensive school reform that abolished the two-track school system. They used a differences-in-differences approach that exploits the gradual implementation across the country; cognitive skills were measured using test scores from the Finnish Army Basic Skills Test. The researchers found that the reform had small positive effects on verbal test scores, but no effect on the mean performance in the arithmetic or logical reasoning tests. However, the reform significantly improved the scores of the students whose parents had less than high-school education.
Kerr also co-authored with William Kerr, Ph.D., “Immigration and Employer Transitions for STEM Workers” published in the American Economic Review, Papers and Proceedings, Vol. 103, 2013. Immigrants play a significant role in many aspects of the U.S. economy, but their impact in occupations related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is especially pronounced. Immigrants account for about a quarter of all STEM workers with college degrees or higher in the 2000 census; about half of those have doctorates. In this paper, the researchers provide a short glimpse into new data that are a useful platform for studying immigration within U.S. firms. The Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics (LEHD) database provides employer-employee records for U.S. private sector firms, which the researchers match to the Current Population Survey, among other analysis. The longitudinal nature of the person-level data affords new insights into career trajectories that to date have only been feasible in special settings. The LEHD is also a powerful platform for studying firm-level consequences of immigration.
The Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College is one of the largest gender-focused research-and-action organizations in the world. Scholars at the Centers conduct social science research and evaluation, develop theory and publications, and implement training programs on issues that put women’s lives and women’s concerns at the center. Since 1974, its work has generated changes in attitudes, practices, and public policy.