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Maternal employment and time investments in children


We use data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics and the American Time Use Survey to estimate the effect of maternal employment on time spent with children. We find that each additional 10 h of maternal work reduces mother–child quality time interaction by about 7.5 % and time reading together by 8 %. This relationship between work and quality time does not vary much based on mothers’ education and is robust to the inclusion of family or child fixed effects. There is no evidence that fathers or other relatives fill the gap in time investments due to maternal employment.

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  1. 1.

    The article is a revised version of Professor Suzanne Bianchi’s presidential address to the Population Association of America in March of 2000.

  2. 2.

    Sample weights are calculated for the mother, and these weights are assigned to each child in the analysis.

  3. 3.

    Previous studies also examined other specific activities such as talking, teaching/helping, and playing (e.g., Bianchi et al. 2004, 2005; Bittman et al. 2004; Folbre and Yoon 2007; Zick et al. 2001).

  4. 4.

    In contrast, an extra 10 h of work each week is associated with a reduction in the mother’s leisure time by 50 min a week and housework by 30 min a week.

  5. 5.

    Another way to split the data is based on the mother’s marital status. We find that married women provide their children 5 % more total time, 19 % more quality time, and 90 % reading time, but the maternal employment gap for these measures is very similar across married and non-married mothers.


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Correspondence to Joseph Price.



See Table 6.

Table 6 Relationship between mother’s hours worked and her time spent with a child, by age of the child

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Heiland, F., Price, J. & Wilson, R. Maternal employment and time investments in children. Rev Econ Household 15, 53–67 (2017).

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  • Maternal employment
  • Mother–child interaction
  • Time use

JEL Classification

  • J22
  • J13