Newswise — Does day care harm or help your child’s learning development? If you’re a single mom it can do both, depending on your level of education. That’s according to new research by a professor at The University of Alabama’s Culverhouse College of Commerce.

Dr. Daniel Henderson, the J. Weldon and Delores Cole Faculty Fellow at Culverhouse, and his colleagues examined and analyzed the results of previous research on the benefits and harms of child care for children of single moms. Henderson found in his research that if a single mother has a higher level of education, then day care can be harmful to a child’s cognitive development, while children of single mothers with less education actually benefit from being in day care.

Henderson and his colleagues were able to contradict the findings of a previous study that indicated the gender of a child and the type (whether formal or informal) impact learning capabilities in day care.

“We found that gender and type of day care had no bearing, but the amount and the level of education of the single mothers both have an impact,” said Henderson. “We found that on average, more day care led to more negative returns to test scores and that higher educated single mothers’ children suffered the most.”

The research looked at test scores of children between the ages of 6-7 and reveals that on average, each year of care leads to a 2 percent reduction in test scores, but this varies with respect to the amount of day care as well as the attributes of the mother.

The prior research Henderson analyzed on single mom child care choices and cognitive achievement was published in the Journal of Labor Economics in 2011. Henderson’s research is forthcoming in the Journal of Business and Economic Statistics.

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Journal of Business and Economic Statistics