Froebel's Gifts: How the Kindergarten Movement Changed the American Familiy

55 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2020

See all articles by Philipp Ager

Philipp Ager

University of Southern Denmark - Department of Business and Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Francesco Cinnirella

University of Bergamo; University of Southern Denmark - Department of Business and Economics; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute) - Ifo Institute; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); CAGE

Date Written: 2020

Abstract

Public educators and philanthropists in the late 19th century United States promoted the establishment of kindergartens in cities as a remedy for the social problems associated with industrialization and immigration. Between 1880 and 1910, more than seven thousand kindergartens opened their doors in the United States, serving both a social and educational function. We use newly collected city-level data on the roll-out of the first kindergartens to evaluate their impact on household outcomes. We find that in cities with a larger kindergarten exposure, families significantly reduced fertility, with the strongest decline appearing in families that were economically disadvantaged and with an immigrant background. Households reduced fertility because kindergarten attendance increased returns to education, but it also led to higher opportunity costs for raising children. Indeed, we show that children exposed to kindergartens were less likely to work during childhood and, instead, stayed longer in school, had more prestigious jobs, and earned higher wages as adults. Finally, we find that exposure to kindergartens particularly helped immigrant children from non-English-speaking countries to gain English proficiency. Their attendance also generated positive language spillover effects on their mothers, illustrating the importance of early childhood education for the integration of immigrant families.

Keywords: kindergarten education, family size, fertility transition, returns to preschool education, quantity-quality trade-off

JEL Classification: N310, J130, I250, O150

Suggested Citation

Ager, Philipp and Cinnirella, Francesco, Froebel's Gifts: How the Kindergarten Movement Changed the American Familiy (2020). CESifo Working Paper No. 8504, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3680361

Philipp Ager (Contact Author)

University of Southern Denmark - Department of Business and Economics ( email )

DK-5230 Odense
Denmark

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

London
United Kingdom

Francesco Cinnirella

University of Bergamo ( email )

Via dei Caniana 2
Bergamo, 24129
Italy

University of Southern Denmark - Department of Business and Economics ( email )

DK-5230 Odense
Denmark

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute) - Ifo Institute ( email )

Poschingerstrasse 5
Munich, 81679
Germany

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

London
United Kingdom

CAGE ( email )

Premier Business Centre
47-49 Park Royal Road
London, NW10 7LQ
United Kingdom

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