A professor at Arizona State University, Chris Herbst, and at Georgia State University, Erdal Tekin, are out with a new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research taking a look at what they say are the effects of government subsidies of child care. From the paper:
Our findings consistently show that child care subsidies are associated with reductions in maternal physical and mental health and poorer interactions between parents and children. For example, subsidy receipt lowers the likelihood that a mother reports being in "very good" or "excellent" health and increases the likelihood of showing symptoms consistent with anxiety, depression, and parenting stress. Subsidized mothers also reveal more psychological and physical aggression toward their children, and are more likely to utilize spanking as a disciplinary tool.
About $9.1 billion in federal and state funds were spent on such subsidies in 2009, the authors report. An abstract of the paper is here.
Correlation doesn't equal causation, of course, and, though the authors tried to control for the possibility that the parents receiving the subsidies were worse off to begin with, that's complicated.
The politics of this study are also hard to figure out. You could see it as kind of right-wing, because it points out that an expensive government program intended to help families winds up hurting them. But you could also see it as kind of left-wing, because it finds fault with the welfare reform of the 1990s that tried to get mothers to work instead of staying home on welfare. And you could also see it as kind of right-wing to the extent that it finds fault with mothers who work outside the home.