Working parents perpetually agonize that they don’t see enough of their children. But a surprising new study finds that mothers and fathers alike are doing a better job than they think, spending far more time with their families than did parents of earlier generations.
The study, by two economists at the University of California, San Diego, analyzes a dozen surveys of how Americans say they use their time, taken at different periods from 1965 to 2007. It reports that the amount of child care time spent by parents at all income levels — and especially those with a college education — has risen “dramatically” since the mid-1990s. (The findings by the husband-and-wife economist team of Garey Ramey and Valerie A. Ramey appear in a discussion paper presented in March at a Brookings Institution conference in Washington.)
Before 1995, mothers spent an average of about 12 hours a week attending to the needs of their children. By 2007, that number had risen to 21.2 hours a week for college-educated women and 15.9 hours for those with less education.
Although mothers still do most of the parenting, fathers also registered striking gains: to 9.6 hours a week for college-educated men, more than double the pre-1995 rate of 4.5 hours; and to 6.8 hours for other men, up from 3.7, according to an additional analysis by Betsey Stevenson and Dan Sacks, economists at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Family researchers say the news should offer relief to guilt-stricken working parents.