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Childcare Trends in Germany: Increasing Socio-Economic Disparities in East and West

Economic Bulletin of December 11, 2014

by Pia S. Schober and Juliane F. Stahl in: DIW Economic Bulletin 11/2014

In East Germany, prior to reunification, daycare provision was widely available to encourage mothers to return to work soon after giving birth. Conversely, in West Germany, childcare facilities for under-threes were few and far between and, at the end of the ’80s/ beginning of the ’90s, the length of parental leave was gradually extended up to three years following the birth of a child. Since 2005, post-reunification Germany has seen a significant expansion in daycare services, primarily to help parents combine employment with family responsibilities. Despite these recent trends, however, 25 years after reunification, there are still major disparities between East and West Germany when it comes to childcare for the under-threes. The present article examines how the use of daycare facilities (Kitas) and informal childcare by relatives or babysitters has changed for this age group in both regions since the ’90s. The study specifically analyzes whether the expansion of daycare in recent years has also resulted in rising socio-economic disparities in the use of different types of childcare and to what extent this applies to East and West Germany. Using data from the Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) study, our analyses show that in West Germany, since 2006, there has been a significant rise in the probability of children with single mothers, or whose mothers have a university or vocational qualification, attending a daycare facility. For children whose mothers have a low level of education or whose parents are at risk of poverty, this increase was less pronounced. In East Germany, considerable growth was observed in daycare attendance among children with highly educated or single mothers as well as of children at risk of poverty. In some groups, the increased use of these institutions was accompanied by a decline in informal childcare arrangements. However, West German mothers with a university qualification and single mothers in East Germany still frequently make use of informal childcare options.

Childcare Trends in Germany: Increasing Socio-Economic Disparities in East and West (PDF, 263.18 KB)