Early Education and Care Services to Ukrainian Refugee Mothers: Effects on Employment, Well-Being and Integration
Title: Early Education and Care Services to Ukrainian Refugee Mothers:
Effects on Employment, Well-Being and Integration (Ludovica Gambaro, Sophia Schmitz, C. Katharina Spiess and Mathias Huebener)
Abstract: The Russian invasion of Ukraine has irreversibly changed the lives of Ukrainians, and triggered a major migration flow to other countries, with more than one million refugees arriving in Germany. This refugee population disproportionally includes women and children, making access to childcare and education services a pressing policy priority. The effects of early education and care services on maternal employment has been a long-standing theme in the economic literature, which has documented the long-term effects on children’s development and on mothers’ earnings trajectories. However, evidence on refugee populations is scarce, so little is known about the potential of early childhood education and care in supporting mothers’ employment, integration and well-being in the context of forced migration.
Our analysis is based on a unique panel data set of Ukrainian refugees arriving in Germany following the Russian invasion (IAB-BiB/FReDA-BAMF-SOEP Survey of Ukrainian refugees). Based on this large and representative data, the paper traces the evolution of children’s access to early education and care services and the employment and integration trajectories of their mothers during their first year in Germany. The empirical approach is based on the observation that most refugees moved to relatives and friends in Germany. The geographic dispersion results in substantial regional differences in the availability of early education and care services that vary by the age of children. We exploit the variation across regions and the age of the youngest child within IV strategies to study effects of facilitated access to early education and care services on mothers’ employment, well-being and integration.
Our results show a significant effect of regional day care availability on children’s enrolment in early education and care, and a significant effect on maternal employment and on the participation in language and integration classes of about 7 to 30 ppt. To check whether unobserved regional characteristics might drive the strong link, we use mothers of older children in the same regions as a placebo group which supports a causal interpretation of our main results. The findings have important policy implications, as they suggest that investing in early education and care services effectively promotes the integration of refugee mothers into the labor market and society, ultimately enhancing their well-being.