When Does Time Matter? Maternal Employment, Children's Time with Parents and Child Development

(2014), Demography, 51(5): 1867-1894 (with A. Hsin)

This study tests the two assumptions underlying popularly held notions that
maternal employment negatively affects children because it reduces time spent with
parents: (1) that maternal employment reduces children’s time with parents, and (2) that
time with parents affects child outcomes. We analyze children’s time-diary data from the
Child Development Supplement of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics and use child
fixed-effects and IV estimations to account for unobserved heterogeneity. We find that
working mothers trade quantity of time for better “quality” of time. On average, maternal
work has no effect on time in activities that positively influence children’s development,
but it reduces time in types of activities thatmay be detrimental to children’s development.
Stratification by mothers’ education reveals that although all children, regardless of
mother’s education, benefit from spending educational and structured time with their
mothers, mothers who are high school graduates have the greatest difficulty balancing
work and childcare.We find some evidence that fathers compensate for maternal employment
by increasing types of activities that can foster child development as well as types of
activities thatmay be detrimental.Overall,we find that the effects ofmaternal employment
are ambiguous because (1) employment does not necessarily reduce children’s time with
parents, and (2) not all types of parental time benefit child development.