Childcare quality matters, and parents intuitively understand that it does. Among the features of childcare parents most value, quality is regularly at the top of the list. Yet experts consistently rate childcare quality in the United States as mediocre at best. Why the disconnect? This Article argues that behavioral market failure is an important piece of the puzzle. Standard economic theory assumes parents are rational market actors, and even market failure theory cannot account for their imperfect rationality. But the paradox of poor childcare quality is not just market failure; it's behavioral market failure. This diagnosis not only helps us understand the market's dysfunction, but also enables us to think creatively about solutions. Armed with insights from behavioral economics, policymakers can identify, and in some cases capitalize on, parents' behavioral anomalies, "nudging" them toward their desired childcare goals. Nudging parents is an important step toward building a better network of childcare to care for, nurture, and develop America's children
Meredith J. Harbach, Nudging Parents, 19 J. Gender Race & Just. 73 (2016).