A Comparison of U.S. Parents’ Time with Children by Child Gender and Family Structure

Rachel Connelly , Bowdoin College
Jean Kimmel, Western Michigan University

With changing marital/fertility patterns, low-income children in the U.S. are now substantially more likely to grow up in a single parent family. There is concern that boys growing up in single parent families fare worse than girls, leading to an intergenerational magnification of the inequality in marriage patterns and life outcomes (Autor and Wasserman, 2013) One hypothesis for the more negative outcome for boys is that single mothers spend more time with their daughters than their sons. Our paper seeks to answer two questions First, do the data support the suggestion that boys who grow up in single mother families experience less parenting time than do similarly-raised girls? Relatedly, do boys and girls who live with married parents experience comparable parenting time investments? Second, what factors explain these differences or similarities? We expand the set of possible family relationships to include the oft-ignored, but potentially important children’s parenting by non-coresident parents. Using the focal parent as the unit of analysis from a sample of single and married couple families with 24-hour time diaries in the American Time Use Survey, 2003-2018, we estimate time use equations using three measures of time with children: primary child care time, primary plus secondary child care time, and time with children in the room. We employ a regression-based approach to facilitate conditional comparisons; i.e., holding constant potentially confounding factors such as income.

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 Presented in Session 103. Children in Diverse Family Structures