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Efficient Child Care Subsidies

Number: 572
Year: 2016
Author(s): Christine Ho, Nicola Pavoni
We study the design of child care subsidies in an optimal welfare and tax problem. The optimal subsidy schedule is qualitatively similar to the existing US scheme. Efficiency mandates a subsidy on formal child care costs for working mothers, with higher subsidies paid to lower income earners. The optimal subsidy is also kinked as a function of child care expenditure.To counterbalance the sliding scale pattern of the optimal subsidy rates, marginal labor income tax rates are set lower than the labor wedges, with the potential to generate negative marginal tax rates. We calibrate our model to features of the US labor market and focus on single mothers with children aged below 6. The optimal program provides stronger participation incentives compared to the US scheme. The intensive margin incentives provided by the efficient program are milder, with subsidy rates decreasing with income more steeply than those in the US.

Keywords: optimal taxation, asymmetric information, child care subsid ies
JEL codes: D82, H21, H24, J13