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Journal Article

Universal pre-school education: the case of public funding with private provision


Publication date

May 2016


This article studies the effect of free pre-school education on child outcomes in primary school. We exploit the staggered implementation of free part-time pre-school for three year olds across Local Education Authorities in England in the early 2000s. The policy led to small improvements in attainment at age 5, with no apparent benefits by age 11. We argue that this is because the expansion of free places largely crowded out privately paid care, with small changes in total participation, and was achieved through an increase in private provision, where quality is lower on average than in the public sector.

Published in

Economic Journal

Volume and page numbers

126 , 682 -723





Education, Child Development, and Economics


University of Essex Research Repository -


Open Access article; © 2016 The Authors. The Economic Journal published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Royal Economic Society; This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


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