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Universal Pre-K Grows Child-Care Market

The adoption of free, four-year-old universal preschool has greatly increased the demand for additional child-care services in Georgia and Oklahoma, a key finding for those states as well as for the national economy as President Barack Obama pushes his own universal pre-K agenda.

Researchers had wondered whether or not such universal programs would supplant other forms of child care, states a study done by the Cambridge, Mass.-based National Bureau of Economic Research in December and released this week.

The demand for early-childhood care increased 25 percent in Georgia, where dollars allocated to universal pre-K follow students to government-approved public and private facilities, write Daphna Bassok, Maria Fitzpatrick, and Susanna Loeb. The pre-K program began in 1995.

Meanwhile in Oklahoma, demand for public child-care programs increased by 30 percent, they said. That state sends funding directly to public schools, which then offer the service. That program began in 1998.

"The differences likely stem from the states' choices of provision versus funding," the researchers wrote.

The most positive effects were felt in rural areas in both states, researchers added.

The researchers said that understanding why the markets shifted must be more closely studied.

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