Time for Children? The Declining Availability of Parents, 1979-2008

Liana Fox, Columbia University
Wen-Jui Han, Columbia University
Christopher Ruhm, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Jane Waldfogel, Columbia University

This paper examines parental employment patterns over the past 30 years. Utilizing the March supplement to the Current Population Survey, we analyze the declining availability of parents from the perspective of children. We find that increasing female labor force participation and the growth in single-headed households has led to dramatic declines in parental availability. The share of children with all parents working full-time has risen from 38 to 49 percent between 1979 and 2007. Particularly striking is the reduction from 47 to 36 percent in the fraction of young children (0-5 years old) with a full-time parental caregiver. Increases in family work hours have primarily occurred at the extensive margins, with the movement of mothers from no work, to full-time employment.

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Presented in Session 142: Work Schedules and Family Time