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.
The Journal of Economic Perspectives (JEP) attempts to fill a gap between the general interest press and most other academic economics journals. The journal aims to publish articles that will serve several goals: to synthesize and integrate lessons learned from active lines of economic research; to provide economic analysis of public policy issues; to encourage cross-fertilization of ideas among the fields of thinking; to offer readers an accessible source for state-of-the-art economic thinking; to suggest directions for future research; to provide insights and readings for classroom use; and to address issues relating to the economics profession.