Since Quebec established subsidized daycare, it's seen a spike in working moms. Mathieu Belanger/Reuters

To all the mothers struggling to balance work and small kids, here’s an idea: Consider Quebec. In one of the most popular stories from CityLab’s special series, Room to Grow, we look at the legacy and impact of Quebec’s subsidized childcare program, which introduced low-fee, universal child care in the province in 1996 and became a model adopted by many other cities and countries.

In the years since, one impact has stood out with particular clarity. “Since beginning the program more than two decades ago, Quebec has seen the rate of women age 26 to 44 in the workforce reach 85 percent, the highest in the world,” writes Molly McCluskey, the series editor and the author of this story. The change in employment rates was particularly dramatic among mothers of young kids. Between 1997 and 2016, the employment rate for mothers of kids age 5 or younger spiked 16 percentage points, according to a Montreal economist who’s studied the program.

Quebec’s program is not without its hurdles. One of the most pressing: There’s not enough public daycare to meet the demand, and subsidized private care is not yet hitting the same quality standard. But so far, because of the dramatic impact on labor force participation among women with young children, economists say the program pays for itself.

Read: The Global Legacy of Quebec’s Subsidized Child Daycare

Happy Mother’s Day! To celebrate, catch up on the rest of our series on raising tiny humans in the city.


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An advocate and mom in Dakar, Senegal, talks about elevating a child-focused policy agenda, in a city that’s still struggling with basic infrastructure.

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What Happens to Kid Culture When You Close the Streets to Cars

In the Spanish city Pontevedra, a family-friendly “pedestrianization” policy has helped increase the population of kids, despite the country’s low birth rates.

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Getting Around the City With Kids, When Formal Transit Has Collapsed

In Harare, Zimbabwe, mothers going about daily tasks have few good options for travel. Here's how we make it work.

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Transit-Oriented Toddlers

Nathan Conroy of Milwaukee noticed that cars seemed to be much friendlier to his family’s bike and trailer once they added a Green Bay Packers flag to the back. “Perhaps other biking families could build relationships with drivers by also flying the flags of local sports favorites,” he suggests. (Nathan Conroy)

“My friends and family think this is insane. They are right.” That’s how one mother named Maggie described her carless life with a small child. But that hasn’t stopped her from keeping the practice going in Brooklyn.

A few months ago, we asked parents of small kids how those of you who get around the city without a car make it work—whether the lifestyle is a choice or a financial necessity. And oh, did you tell us. In our final article in the series, we’ve published a selection of your answers.

Anton Lodder, in Toronto, said he makes “carry-the-stroller-up-the-stairs” into a game for his two-year-old on the subway. Several of you in certain European cities like Munich said it would actually be more difficult to have a car living in the city center. But some of you had a darker take: Even with the lightest, most compact, urban-oriented stroller, lots of cities aren’t built for families to live this way. And the only way to get by is to ask for help. Reader Yael Levine, who gets around Manhattan with twins, writes:

There’s something beautiful about putting yourself in a position where you’ll need a hand, about being ok with being dependent, and viewing as natural or no big deal to need and accept someone’s help.

Get a few tips from the pros. Read: How You Get Around the City With Young Kids and No Car


More stories on children and cities


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