Despite evidence from other regions, researchers and policy-makers remain skeptical that women's disproportionate childcare responsibilities act as a significant barrier to women's economic empowerment in Africa. This randomized control trial study in an informal settlement in Nairobi, Kenya, demonstrates that limited access to affordable early childcare inhibits poor urban women's participation in paid work. Women who were offered vouchers for subsidized early childcare were, on average, 8.5 percentage points more likely to be employed than those who were not given vouchers. Most of these employment gains were realized by married mothers. Single mothers, in contrast, benefited by significantly reducing the time spent working without any loss to their earnings by shifting to jobs with more regular hours. The effects on other measures of women's economic empowerment were mixed. With the exception of children's health care, access to subsidized daycare did not increase women's participation in other important household decisions. In addition, contrary to concerns that reducing the costs of childcare may elevate women's desire for more children, we find no effect on women's fertility intentions. These findings demonstrate that the impact of subsidized childcare differs by marital status and across outcomes. Nonetheless, in poor urban Africa, as elsewhere, failure to address women's childcare needs undermines efforts to promote women's economic empowerment.
Keywords: Childcare; Daycares; Employment; Sub-Saharan Africa; Women’s economic empowerment.