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The incremental time costs of children: An analysis of children's impact on adult time use in Australia


  • Lyn Craig
  • Michael Bittman


Raising children takes both time and money. Scholars have sought convincing ways to capture the costs of children, but even when these estimates include indirect costs, such as mothers' foregone earnings, they fall short of the true time costs involved. This paper uses data from the 1997 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Time Use Survey to study how the allocation of time differs across households with varying numbers and ages of children and how households with children differ from those without children. It also examines the intra household division of time resources, showing how childcare, related unpaid work, and the total market and non-market workloads compare for a couple in the same household. It includes secondary activity in an analysis of total parental time commitments to give a more accurate picture of the time cost of children than is possible on the basis of analyzing “primary” activities alone.

Suggested Citation

  • Lyn Craig & Michael Bittman, 2008. "The incremental time costs of children: An analysis of children's impact on adult time use in Australia," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 14(2), pages 59-88.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:femeco:v:14:y:2008:i:2:p:59-88 DOI: 10.1080/13545700701880999

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    2. Colander, David, 2003. "The Aging of an Economist," Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Cambridge University Press, vol. 25(02), pages 157-176, June.
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    6. Uri Gneezy & Aldo Rustichini, 2004. "Gender and Competition at a Young Age," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 377-381, May.
    7. David Neumark & Rosella Gardecki, 1998. "Women Helping Women? Role Model and Mentoring Effects on Female Ph.D. Students in Economics," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 33(1), pages 220-246.
    8. McDowell, John M & Smith, Janet Kiholm, 1992. "The Effect of Gender-Sorting on Propensity to Coauthor: Implications for Academic Promotion," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 30(1), pages 68-82, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. David Canning & Declan French & Michael Moore, 2016. "The Economics of Fertility Timing: An Euler Equation Approach," CHaRMS Working Papers 16-03, Centre for HeAlth Research at the Management School (CHaRMS).
    2. repec:kap:jculte:v:41:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s10824-016-9275-8 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Elisabeth Gugl & Linda Welling, 2010. "The Early Bird Gets The Worm? Birth Order Effects In A Dynamic Family Model," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 48(3), pages 690-703, July.
    4. Olivier Thévenon & Angela Luci, 2012. "Reconciling Work, Family and Child Outcomes: What Implications for Family Support Policies?," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 31(6), pages 855-882, December.
    5. Scott Schieman & Marisa Young, 2015. "Who Engages in Work–Family Multitasking? A Study of Canadian and American Workers," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 120(3), pages 741-767, February.
    6. Vivien Procher & Nolan Ritter & Colin Vance, 2014. "Making dough or baking dough? Spousal housework responsibilities in Germany, 1992-2011," Schumpeter Discussion Papers SDP14004, Universitätsbibliothek Wuppertal, University Library.
    7. repec:zbw:rwirep:0472 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Vivien Procher & Nolan Ritter & Colin Vance, 2014. "Making Dough or Baking Dough? Spousal Housework Responsibilities in Germany, 1992-2011," Ruhr Economic Papers 0472, Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Universität Dortmund, Universität Duisburg-Essen.
    9. repec:spr:soinre:v:132:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s11205-016-1344-z is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Shoshana Grossbard & Sankar Mukhopadhyay, 2013. "Children, spousal love, and happiness: an economic analysis," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 11(3), pages 447-467, September.
    11. Anne Roeters & Jornt J. Mandemakers & Marieke Voorpostel, 2016. "Parenthood and Well-Being: The Moderating Role of Leisure and Paid Work," European Journal of Population, Springer;European Association for Population Studies, vol. 32(3), pages 381-401, August.
    12. Granger, Karen & Lu, Vinh Nhat & Conduit, Jodie & Veale, Roberta & Habel, Cullen, 2014. "Keeping the faith! Drivers of participation in spiritually-based communities," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 67(2), pages 68-75.
    13. Brown, Judith E. & Broom, Dorothy H. & Nicholson, Jan M. & Bittman, Michael, 2010. "Do working mothers raise couch potato kids? Maternal employment and children's lifestyle behaviours and weight in early childhood," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 70(11), pages 1816-1824, June.

    More about this item


    Children; time use; motherhood; gender equity; secondary activity; JEL Codes: J16; J22; J13;

    JEL classification:

    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth


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