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Mothers’ Education Level and Time with Children: In What Spheres are There Inequalities?

Sun, August 12, 8:30 to 10:10am, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Floor: Level 4, Franklin Hall 9


Highly-educated mothers are said to spend more time with children compared to less educated mothers, with scholars and some policymakers concerned about growing inequalities across children. Yet scholars sometimes lack precision by equating mothers’ time in “child care” activities as measured by adult time diaries to the entirety of time mothers actually spend with their offspring. Time “with” is a richer, more complex concept and measure, and includes time in activities with children that are not considered or coded as “child care” -- for example, a parent’s leisure time activity (e.g., watching a movie with a child) or housework (cooking with the child). Using the American Time Use Survey (ATUS, 2003-2016), we confirm that more highly educated mothers spend more time “in child care” (i.e., care of young children, talking, helping, playing, teaching, and arranging children’s activities); but this constitutes only 30 percent of time mothers spend with children. Highly educated mothers spend less (total) time with children (about one hour per day) compared with the least-educated mothers, because of less leisure time and housework time with children. We illuminate how greater conceptual precision will expand theorizing about inequalities in family time.


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