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How Does Employment Affect the Timing of Time with Children?

Listed author(s):
  • Jay Stewart


    (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

  • Mary Dorinda Allard


    (Program Director, ATUS)

A large body of literature has examined the effect of parental employment--primarily maternal employment--on the amount of time spent with children and in childcare activities, and it is well documented that employed parents spend less time with their children than nonemployed parents. But not all time is equal. Research on circadian rhythms suggests that children’s ability to benefit from parents’ enriching childcare activities, such as reading to and playing with their children, varies by time of day. Thus, we would expect parents to engage in these enriching activities at times of day when it is the most valuable to their children. If employment causes parents to shift their childcare activities away from times when it is the most valuable, then differences in the amount of time that employed and nonemployed parents spend in childcare underestimate the effect of employment on parents’ quality-adjusted time with their children. In this study, we examine whether employment results in parents shifting the time spent engaging in childcare activities to times that may be less productive. We develop a simple model of timing that predicts that parents will spend more time with their children when it is most productive. We then use data from the American Time Use Survey to compare workdays to nonwork days, and find that employment significantly affects the timing of enriching childcare activities for both mothers and fathers who are employed full time. In particular, these parents shift enriching childcare activities into the evening hours. In contrast, part-time employment has a much smaller effect on when mothers spent time with their children. Thus, part-time employment not only allows mothers to spend more time with their children compared to fulltime employment, it also allows them to spend that time when it may be the most beneficial and enjoyable.

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Paper provided by U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in its series Working Papers with number 419.

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Length: 34 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2008
Handle: RePEc:bls:wpaper:ec080050
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  1. Andrea Ichino & Anna Sanz De Galdeano, 2004. "Reconciling Motherhood and Work: Evidence from Time Use Data in Three Countries," CSEF Working Papers 114, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.
  2. Hamermesh, Daniel S. & Myers, Caitlin Knowles & Pocock, Mark L., 2006. "Cues for Coordination: Light, Longitude and Letterman," IZA Discussion Papers 2060, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Daniel S. Hamermesh & Harley Frazis & Jay Stewart, 2005. "Data Watch: The American Time Use Survey," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(1), pages 221-232, Winter.
  4. Suzanne Bianchi, 2000. "Maternal employment and time with children: Dramatic change or surprising continuity?," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 37(4), pages 401-414, November.
  5. Marie Connolly, 2008. "Here Comes the Rain Again: Weather and the Intertemporal Substitution of Leisure," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 26, pages 73-100.
  6. Lyn Craig, 2006. "Where Do They Find the Time?: An Analysis of How Parents Shift and Squeeze Their Time around Work and Child Care," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_439, Levy Economics Institute.
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