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Parental Education and Parental Time with Children

  • Jonathan Guryan
  • Erik Hurst
  • Melissa Kearney

This paper examines parental time allocated to the care of one's children. Using data from the recent American Time Use Surveys, we highlight some interesting cross-sectional patterns in time spent by American parents as they care for their children: we find that higher-educated parents spend more time with their children; for example, mothers with a college education or greater spend roughly 4.5 hours more per week in child care than mothers with a high school degree or less. This relationship is striking, given that higher-educated parents also spend more time working outside the home. This robust relationship holds across all subgroups examined, including both nonworking and working mothers and working fathers. It also holds across all four subcategories of child care: basic, educational, recreational, and travel related to child care. From an economic perspective, this positive education gradient in child care (and a similar positive gradient found for income) can be viewed as surprising, given that the opportunity cost of time is higher for higher-educated, high-wage adults. In sharp contrast, the amount of time allocated to home production and to leisure falls sharply as education and income rise. We conclude that child care is best modeled as being distinct from typical home production or leisure activities, and thinking about it differently suggests important questions for economists to explore. Finally, using data from a sample of 14 countries, we explore whether the same patterns holds across countries and within other countries.

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File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.22.3.23
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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Volume (Year): 22 (2008)
Issue (Month): 3 (Summer)
Pages: 23-46

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Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:22:y:2008:i:3:p:23-46
Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.22.3.23
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  1. Jean Kimmel & Rachel Connelly, 2007. "Mothers’ Time Choices: Caregiving, Leisure, Home Production, and Paid Work," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 42(3).
  2. Mark Aguiar & Erik Hurst, 2007. "Measuring Trends in Leisure: The Allocation of Time over Five Decades," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 122(3), pages 969-1006, 08.
  3. Jutta M. Joesch & C. Katharina Spiess, 2002. "European Mothers' Time with Children: Differences and Similarities across Nine Countries," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 305, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  4. Garey Ramey & Valerie A. Ramey, 2010. "The Rug Rat Race," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 41(1 (Spring), pages 129-199.
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  7. Arleen Leibowitz, 1977. "Parental Inputs and Children's Achievement," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 12(2), pages 242-251.
  8. Arleen Leibowitz, 1974. "Home Investments in Children," NBER Chapters, in: Marriage, Family, Human Capital, and Fertility, pages 111-135 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Francine D. Blau & Adam J. Grossberg, 1990. "Maternal Labor Supply and Children's Cognitive Development," NBER Working Papers 3536, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Robert Haveman & Barbara Wolfe, 1995. "The Determinants of Children's Attainments: A Review of Methods and Findings," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(4), pages 1829-1878, December.
  11. Jonathan Guryan & Erik Hurst & Melissa Schettini Kearney, 2008. "Parental Education and Parental Time With Children," NBER Working Papers 13993, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Leibowitz, Arleen, 1974. "Home Investments in Children," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(2), pages S111-S131, Part II, .
  13. Arleen Leibowitz, 1974. "Home Investments in Children," NBER Chapters, in: Economics of the Family: Marriage, Children, and Human Capital, pages 432-456 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Anne H. Gauthier & Timothy M. Smeeding & Frank F. Furstenberg, 2004. "Are Parents Investing Less Time in Children? Trends in Selected Industrialized Countries," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 30(4), pages 647-672.
  15. Burda, Michael C. & Hamermesh, Daniel S. & Weil, Philippe, 2006. "The Distribution of Total Work in the EU and US," IZA Discussion Papers 2270, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  16. Nancy Folbre & Jayoung Yoon, 2007. "What is child care? Lessons from time-use surveys of major English-speaking countries," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 5(3), pages 223-248, September.
  17. C. Russell Hill & Frank P. Stafford, 1974. "Allocation of Time to Preschool Children and Educational Opportunity," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 9(3), pages 323-341.
  18. Datcher-Loury, Linda, 1988. "Effects of Mother's Home Time on Children's Schooling," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 70(3), pages 367-73, August.
  19. Nancy Folbre & Jayoung Yoon & Kade Finnoff & Allison Sidle Fuligni, 2004. "By What Measure? Family Time Devoted to Children in the U.S," UMASS Amherst Economics Working Papers 2004-06, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Economics.
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