Froebel’s Gifts: How the Kindergarten Movement Changed the American Family

Philipp Ager, University of Southern Denmark
Francesco Cinnirella, University of Southern Denmark

American cities experienced a dramatic increase in kindergarten attendance at the turn of the 20th century. Like today, kindergartens offered early childhood education for young children to promote their skills and facilitating entry to primary school. Using newly-collected data on the roll-out of kindergartens across American cities together with complete count U.S. Census microdata, we can evaluate the kindergartens' impact on family outcomes. We find that exposure to kindergartens significantly reduced the fertility of mothers whose children likely attended kindergartens. The fertility decline is the largest in immigrant households. Kindergartens also increased the returns to education of potential attendants by increasing schooling relative to persons that were just too old to attend when the first kindergarten in a city was established. We further show that potential kindergarten attendants were less likely to work during childhood and children born outside an English speaking country were more likely to speak English when they attended a kindergarten in the United States. Foreign-born mothers and older siblings of kindergarten attendants also benefited from spillover effects.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 95. Big Data in Historical Research II