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The effect of macroeconomic conditions on parental time with children: evidence from the American time use survey

Abstract

This paper investigates the effect of changes in macroeconomic conditions on time allocation to children among mothers and fathers in the US. The study relies on 2003–2013 American Time Use Survey (ATUS) data. Accounting for a variety of personal demographic characteristics, as well as state and year fixed effects, we find that an increase in state-level unemployment rates is associated with an increase in enriching child–father time in families with small children (ages 0–4). However, there is heterogeneity in results by race, education and marital status, with results being statistically significant for white, married and college-educated fathers. Additionally, we find some evidence that an increase in unemployment rates is also associated with an increase in primary childcare for fathers in families with small children, as well as some declines in total time that fathers spend with older children. In contrast to this result, we find that mothers’ total time with children, as well as primary childcare time, is invariant to macroeconomic fluctuations in the labor market, however, as the unemployment rate goes up we do observe small declines in enriching time that white mothers in families with small children devote to enriching activities.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    See Stewart (2010) for more details on enriching activities.

  2. 2.

    We utilize primary childcare activities as defined by ATUS (including activities related to the caring of and looking after children, activities related to children’s education and activities related to children’s health). Some of the activities included in enriching time are also categorized by ATUS as primary childcare, hence the enriching time and primary childcare time are not mutually exclusive.

  3. 3.

    In the paper’s Appendix, we recalculate some of our results using Tobit, with results being very similar to OLS.

  4. 4.

    Each cell represents a point estimate on the unemployment rate from our empirical specification for the dependent variables specified on the lefthand side of the table.

  5. 5.

    Full set of results is available from authors.

  6. 6.

    We do not include these results, however, we can provide them upon request.

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Correspondence to Lyudmyla Sonchak.

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Appendix

Appendix

Table 7

Table 7 Sample sizes (ATUS 2003–2013)

Table 

Table 8 Impact of the unemployment rate on time allocation of fathers (Tobit, minutes per day)

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Bauer, P., Sonchak, L. The effect of macroeconomic conditions on parental time with children: evidence from the American time use survey. Rev Econ Household 15, 905–924 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11150-017-9368-y

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Keywords

  • Time allocation
  • parental time-use
  • unemployment
  • childcare

JEL Classification

  • J22
  • D13
  • J13