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The Rug Rat Race

  • Garey Ramey
  • Valerie A. Ramey

After three decades of decline, the amount of time spent by parents on childcare in the U.S. began to rise dramatically in the mid-1990s. Moreover, the rise in childcare time was particularly pronounced among college-educated parents. Why would highly educated parents increase the amount of time they allocate to childcare at the same time that their own market returns have skyrocketed? After finding no empirical support for standard explanations, such as selection or income effects, we offer a new explanation. We argue that increased competition for college admissions may be an important source of these trends. The number of college-bound students has surged in recent years, coincident with the rise in time spent on childcare. The resulting "cohort crowding" has led parents to compete more aggressively for college slots by spending increasing amounts of time on college preparation. Our theoretical model shows that, since college-educated parents have a comparative advantage in college preparation, rivalry leads them to increase preparation time by a greater amount than less-educated parents. We provide empirical support for our explanation with a comparison of trends between the U.S. and Canada, and a comparison across racial groups in the U.S.

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Article provided by Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution in its journal Brookings Papers on Economic Activity.

Volume (Year): 41 (2010)
Issue (Month): 1 (Spring) ()
Pages: 129-199

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Handle: RePEc:bin:bpeajo:v:41:y:2010:i:2010-01:p:129-199
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  1. Bound, John & Turner, Sarah, 2007. "Cohort crowding: How resources affect collegiate attainment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(5-6), pages 877-899, June.
  2. Mark Aguiar & Erik Hurst, 2006. "Measuring Trends in Leisure: The Allocation of Time Over Five Decades," NBER Working Papers 12082, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Alan B. Krueger & Daniel Kahneman & David Schkade & Norbert Schwarz & Arthur A. Stone, 2007. "National Time Accounting: The Currency of Life," Working Papers 1034, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Center for Economic Policy Studies..
    • Alan B. Krueger & Daniel Kahneman & David Schkade & Norbert Schwarz & Arthur A. Stone, 2009. "National Time Accounting: The Currency of Life," NBER Chapters, in: Measuring the Subjective Well-Being of Nations: National Accounts of Time Use and Well-Being, pages 9-86 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. 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.
  5. Katz, L.F. & Murphy, K.M., 1991. "Changes in Relative Wages, 1963-1987: Supply and Demand Factors," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1580, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  6. John Bound & Brad Hershbein & Bridget Terry Long, 2009. "Playing the Admissions Game: Student Reactions to Increasing College Competition," NBER Working Papers 15272, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Melissa S. Kearney, 2008. "Trends in U.S. Wage Inequality: Revising the Revisionists," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(2), pages 300-323, May.
  8. Zvi Eckstein & Éva Nagypál, 2004. "The evolution of U.S. earnings inequality: 1961?2002," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Dec, pages 10-29.
  9. 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).
  10. Caroline M. Hoxby, 1997. "How the Changing Market Structure of U.S. Higher Education Explains College Tuition," NBER Working Papers 6323, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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