Review of Economics of the Household

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 453–476 | Cite as

Parental child care during and outside of typical work hours

  • Alice Schoonbroodt


It has been argued that child care should be treated separately from leisure or housework when analyzing time use data. This is because child care has a positive income gradient, whereas leisure and housework do not. Using U.S. data from PSID-CDS, this paper computes parental child care during and outside of typical work hours (TWH) by income quintile for two-parent families. The TWH distinction is important because the opportunity cost of spending time with children is first and foremost in terms of forgone earnings during TWH; outside of TWH, leisure or housework mainly constitute this opportunity cost. Indeed, I find that child care decreases with income during TWH and, hence, behaves similarly to leisure and other household chores. While maternal child care also slightly decreases with income outside of TWH, paternal care increases with income outside of TWH. Also, the discrepancy between paternal and maternal child care is smaller outside of TWH than it is during TWH. This is particularly pronounced in high income families. Theoretical implications are derived in a static framework of time allocation and child quality production encompassing the recent literature on the topic. Variation in child care during TWH can be rationalized by assuming a high elasticity of substitution between leisure, consumption and child quality. This is the standard explanation for the patterns observed in leisure and housework. Within this widely used framework, however, the facts outside of TWH point to systematic differences by income in preferences or productivity. Further exploration of child care patterns during and outside of TWH is needed to inform us about the dimensions in which this widely used framework should be extended.


Parental child care Opportunity cost Typical work hours Child quality 

Mathematics Subject Classification

D13 J13 



The author thanks David Frisvold, Martin Gervais, Paula Gobbi, Lev Lvovskiy and Michèle Tertilt as well as four anonymous referees for helpful comments.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (pdf 243 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsThe University of IowaIowa CityUSA

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