The costs of childcare for single parents: Structural or political?
Early Childhood Care and Education (ECEC) has expanded rapidly in Europe the last decades. Yet, huge cross-national variation exists in terms of availability, affordability and quality. Previous studies have emphasised the role of the political economy behind the cross-national variation, often using indicators as public expenditure and enrolment rates. However, using any of these indicators does not show how expensive childcare is for the user in the end. Other studies highlight structural forces, such as changing normative beliefs or declining fertility rates, to be driving forces behind policy change. Against this background, this thesis aims to account for cross-national variation in childcare fees, using The Net Childcare Costs dataset (OECD, 2021b) for the dependent variable. It includes the actual costs for childcare users, after tax deductions and benefits. Using a mix of cross-sectional and longitudinal data, it tests a series of hypotheses on the determinants behind the development of this policy. Its main conclusion is that left-parties in parliament before the 2000s are associated with lower childcare costs and that female employment is associated with lower childcare costs for the years 2004-2018.