Germany's direct allocation of money to parents for their children works well, a Bertelsmann Foundation study shows. The money flows into improving youngsters' day care as well as sports, and music lessons.
A study published Wednesday by the Bertelsmann Foundation debunked widespread misconceptions that grants doled out directly to parents end up being spent on alcohol, tobacco and glitzy electronics rather than on the children intended to benefit from them.
The study coincides with a push for more equitable direct grants by Social Democrat ministers in Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition Cabinet and alarm expressed by welfare organizations over the 3 million — or one-in-five — children in Germany classified as at risk of living in poverty.
Read more: Child poverty, mother's income decisive
The Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW), which conducted the Bertelsmann-commissioned study, examined data from 1984 and 2016 on how parents spent two types of grants: Kindergeld [federal child benefit, currently at €194 apiece for the first and second child] and Landeserziehungsgeld [regional state parenting benefits].
Parents did not reduce their hours of paid employment but instead invested both types of direct grants in obtaining roomier accommodation and better educational opportunities.
The probability that preschoolers attended supervised day care rose 5 percent for every €100 ($114) in grants parents received, the Bertelsmann study concluded.
That probability rose to 10 percent when the researchers looked at data from 2000 onward, as parents apparently place more importance on their children attending preschool institutions, such as kindergarten.
The direct funding also boosted optional sports club attendance by 8 percent and music instrument tuition for under-6-year-olds by 7 percent, the study found.
Material handouts, vouchers ineffective
Poor marks emerged in the study for material handouts and specific-purpose grants introduced federally in 2011 and intended to raise educational chances for children of poorer families.
Administering applications from parents consumed about 30 percent of such funds. Furthermore, many who could have received the funds did not submit applications, the study found.
Direct-delivered financial grants make much more sense than material handouts that have to be applied for, said Bertelsmann Foundation chairman Jörg Dräger.
Suspecting parents simply false
Commenting on the findings, Catholic Family Federation [Familienbund] President Ulrich Hoffmann said the findings showed that parents knew best how to handle state-offered grants.
Placing them under general suspicion was simply false, said Hoffmann.
Ulrich Lilie, the president of the Protestant churches' Diakonie social services network, said the study showed that the problem was not the parents but an insufficiency of "measures to effectively fight child poverty" in Germany.
Children in Germany usually start primary school at or around the age of six. School curricula include sports but club-sports - outside school - still predominate. Communal and private music schools still play a major part in instrument tuition, despite cutbacks.
ipj/xx (KNA, dpa, epd)