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Maternal employment and time with children: Dramatic change or surprising continuity?

Demography

Abstract

Despite the rapid rise in mothers’ labor force participation, mothers’ time with children has tended to be quite stable over time. In the past, nonemployed mothers’ time with children was reduced by the demands of unpaid family work and domestic chores and by the use of mother substitutes for childcare, especially in large families. Today employed mothers seek ways to maximize time with children: They remain quite likely to work part-time or to exit from the labor force for some years when their children are young; they also differ from nonemployed mothers in other uses of time (housework, volunteer work, leisure). In addition, changes in children’s lives (e.g., smaller families, the increase in preschool enrollment, the extended years of financial dependence on parents as more attend college) are altering the time and money investments that children require from parents. Within marriage, fathers are spending more time with their children than in the past, perhaps increasing the total time children spend with parents even as mothers work more hours away from home.

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This is a revised version of my presidential address to the Population Association of America, delivered in Los Angeles on March 24, 2000. Funding for this research was provided by the National Science Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation’s Program on Working Families. I gratefully acknowledge the research assistance of Marybeth Mattingly and Gwyndolyn Weathers. I thank Wendy Bruno and Jason Fields of the U.S. Census Bureau for providing information on preschool enrollment trends and children’s living arrangements. The address benefits from collaborative work with Lynne Casper, Philip Cohen, Melissa Milkie, Liana Sayer, and John Robinson. I owe a special debt of gratitude to Daphne Spain and Steven Nock, and to my colleagues at Maryland, Laurie DeRose, Sonalde Desai, Joan Kahn, Harriet Presser, Stanley Presser, and Reeve Vanneman, who provided comments on earlier drafts of this address

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Bianchi, S.M. Maternal employment and time with children: Dramatic change or surprising continuity?. Demography 37, 401–414 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1353/dem.2000.0001

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