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Abstract

Currently, debates about the merits of one form or another of day care frequently miss some significant issues and hence some of the important policy options may be ruled out or in for the wrong reasons. Here, child day care is layed on a spectrum one end of which offers maximum market freedom in the form of income redistribution, a negative income tax, children's allowance, or other transfer assistance, to be spent on the market if so desired for day care services, and on the other end of the spectrum a system of comprehensive child day care centers. In between are various mixtures of the two and various special blends like voucher systems. Hopefully, by so arraying the issues and discussing them certain similarities between antipoverty and child care policy become evident and certain problems of transfers in cash or provision in kind can be clarified. Various day care policy options are discussed in relationship to assumptions that they make about cost, theories of child development, definitions of universality, the preference of parents, returns to scale, economic rationality, market responsiveness, quality, consumer democracy, and citizen control. Finally three central issues which lie outside of this analysis, freedom, political environment, and the target group to whom day care should be directed are discussed. In this discussion the point is made that day care is best conceived of as directed toward mothers not toward children or families. It is the mother who is most in need of the benefit of day care policy most of the time and to whom reasonable policy of day care should be directed. This consideration quite alters what seem fairly reasonable conclusions in favor of market day care in favor of day care by voucher or by direct service.

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