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The Effects of Child Care Subsidies on Women’s Economic Opportunities in the Slums of Nairobi
Last registered on January 15, 2019


Trial Information
General Information
The Effects of Child Care Subsidies on Women’s Economic Opportunities in the Slums of Nairobi
Initial registration date
September 15, 2015
Last updated
January 15, 2019 3:36 PM EST
Primary Investigator
McGill University
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
African Population and Health Research Center
Additional Trial Information
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
In urban informal settlement areas of Nairobi (Kenya), as throughout sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), women’s ability to achieve economic autonomy is often curtailed by their concurrent responsibility to care for young children. In this paper, we present our pre-analysis plan of our randomized experiment to assess the effects of subsidized and improved quality daycare on women’s engagement with the labor force in an informal settlement area of Nairobi. Approximately 1,200 mothers with children aged 1 to 3 will be enrolled in our study. One third of these women will be randomly assigned to receive vouchers for a full year of free child care at local daycare facilities. Another third will be given similar vouchers at daycare facilities where child care providers will receive enhanced early childhood care and education (ECCE) training and materials to improve the quality of services. The remaining third will act as our comparison group. Our analyses will focus on the effects of this intervention on three primary outcomes 1) women’s labor force participation, 2) hours worked, and 3) household income.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Clark, Shelley and Caroline Kabiru. 2019. "The Effects of Child Care Subsidies on Women’s Economic Opportunities in the Slums of Nairobi." AEA RCT Registry. January 15. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.843-4.0.
Former Citation
Clark, Shelley, Shelley Clark and Caroline Kabiru. 2019. "The Effects of Child Care Subsidies on Women’s Economic Opportunities in the Slums of Nairobi." AEA RCT Registry. January 15. https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/843/history/40265.
Sponsors & Partners

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Experimental Details
Interventions: This study will evaluate two interventions, 1) subsidized daycare and 2) subsidized daycare plus quality improvements, using two treatment arms and one comparison group.

Intervention 1: Subsidized Daycare

The costs of formal daycare can be prohibitively costly to mothers with low earning potential, such as women living in the informal settlement areas of Nairobi. Subsidizing daycare could lower this barrier to economic engagement and encourage mothers with young children to enter the labor force or work longer hours, thereby increasing their household’s total income. Such support may be particularly beneficial to disadvantaged women such as single mothers and recent immigrants who are expected to have the least social support in helping with their childcare. Women in this arm of our study will receive a full year of vouchers for free daycare services at selected local facilities. Participating daycares will also receive modest monthly cash transfers to compensate them for the additional monitoring and help them accommodate a possible increase in their number of enrolled pupils.

Intervention 2: Subsidized Daycare at Improve Daycare Facilities

Given the low quality of some daycare centers in the informal settlements, some mothers may be reluctant to place their children in daycares regardless of the costs. To test whether the availability of affordable and high-quality daycares increase women’s engagement with the workforce, we provide quality improvements to half of the daycares we are subsidizing. These quality improvements include the training of all childcare providers in each selected center using an adapted program used by the Aga Khan Foundation, which is based on UNICEF/WHO’s Care for Child Development (C4CD) model, an Early Childhood Development (ECD) intervention. The C4CD intervention provides information and recommendations for cognitive stimulation and social support to young children, through sensitive and responsive caregiver-child interactions. The C4CD package guides health workers, caregivers, counsellors, and parents to build stronger relationships with their children, solve problems in caring for their children, and learn how to be sensitive and respond to the needs of the children. Childcare providers will also receive training on nutrition, child security, toy development, hygiene, sanitation, adequate sleep, and record keeping. The training will be covered in 5 full-days (after 2 days of a needs assessment pre-visit by the master trainers). Refresher training would also be offered half way through the intervention period. Two District Centres for Early Childhood Education (DICECE) officers will also be assigned to Korogocho area to check in and reinforce the learnings with caregivers through daycare visits, and act as the go between our project and the county government. Daycares in the quality arm will also receive material supplies in the form of mattresses, potties, padlocks (to increase security), and materials to build portable hand washing stations, toys, and teaching tools
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
a) Women’s labour force participation,
b) Women’s number of hours worked per week, and
c) Total household and women's income
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
The randomization process will proceed as follows. During the baseline survey, mothers will be asked whether they are currently sending their child (aged 1 to 3) to a daycare and, if so, to provide the name and location of the daycare. Daycares used by the mothers will then be compiled into a list. Based on our initial daycare inventory survey in Korogocho, we anticipate identifying approximately 45 daycares. Daycares on this list will be randomly assigned to one of the three arms of the study: a comparison arm, a voucher only arm, and a voucher plus quality improvement arm (voucher plus). Thus, we expect to have about 15 daycares in each arm, and we will create a separate list of daycares in each arm. Mothers, whose children are already enrolled in daycare, will be given vouchers for a full year of free services at their current daycare. Mothers, whose children are not currently in daycare, will be randomized into one of the three arms. If mothers are selected for either the voucher or voucher plus arm, they will be given a list of daycares in the arm for which they were selected and informed that they may select anyone of these daycares and be given a year of free services.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization Unit
For women who are already using daycare, the treatment is clustered at the daycare-level. For women not currently using daycare, randomization occurs at the individual level.
Was the treatment clustered?
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
45 daycares
Sample size: planned number of observations
1,200 mothers
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
400 mothers/15 daycares in each treatment arm
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB Name
Research Ethics Board, McGill University
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
IRB Name
African Medical and Research Foundation, in Kenya (AMREF)
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
IRB Name
African Medical and Research Foundation, in Kenya (AMREF)
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Analysis Plan

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Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Is the intervention completed?
Intervention Completion Date
January 07, 2017, 12:00 AM +00:00
Is data collection complete?
Data Collection Completion Date
January 07, 2017, 12:00 AM +00:00
Final Sample Size: Number of Clusters (Unit of Randomization)
1,222 women total, 849 randomized at individual level, 373 randomized at day care level (48 total day cares)
Was attrition correlated with treatment status?
Final Sample Size: Total Number of Observations
1,079 women
Final Sample Size (or Number of Clusters) by Treatment Arms
322 control, 354 voucher to regular day care, 400 voucher to quality-improved day care
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
Program Files
Program Files
Reports and Papers
Preliminary Reports
Relevant Papers
Studies from North America, Europe, and Latin America show that women’s disproportionate
child care responsibilities significantly impede their labor force participation. Yet, some have
questioned whether similar barriers exist in sub-Saharan Africa, where women primarily work in
the informal sector and may receive extensive kin support. To test whether child care obligations
limit African women from engaging in paid work, we conducted a randomized study which
provided subsidized early child care (ECC) to selected mothers living in a slum area of Nairobi,
Kenya. We found that not only are mothers eager to send their children to ECC centers, but also
that women who were given subsidized ECC were, on average, 8.5 percentage points (or over
17%) more likely than those who were not to be employed. This effect rose to over 20 percentage
points among women who actually used the ECC services. Furthermore, working mothers who
were given subsidized ECC were able to work fewer hours than those not given ECC without any
loss to their earnings. These findings provide strong evidence that subsidizing child care for
women in poor urban settings could be a powerful mechanism to improve female labor outcomes
and reduce gender inequalities in Africa.
Clark, Shelley, Caroline Kabiru, Sonia Laszlo, and Stella Muthuri. 2017. “Can Subsidized Early Child Care Promote Women’s Employment?: Evidence from a Slum Settlement in Africa.” GrOW Research Working Paper Series. #5, Institute for the Study of International Development, McGill University, Montreal, Canada.