Busted Halo

In Virtue/Vice, Dr. Christine B. Whelan blogs about news, books, scientific and psychological research and her general musings about virtue and vice in our everyday lives.


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October 5th, 2010

Family Time is on the Rise


family-time-onrise-flashAccording to a recent working paper presented at Brookings, Garey Ramey and Valerie A. Ramey of the University of California at San Diego report that

  1. Parents are spending more time with kids, even when both parents work outside the home
  2. College-educated parents are now spending twice as much as time with their children than less-educated parents
  3. The gap between well-educated and less-educated parents providing childcare is widening

Why the change-especially among college-educated parents? Drs. Ramey attribute the increase in time educated parents are spending with their children to an effort to get their kids into elite colleges. But oddly, the New York Times coverage of this report makes no mention of that focus nor does the Times really focus on the increasing educational disparities for the different in one-on-one time with children.

It’s not news that parenting strategies among the educated are very different. (For more on this, I recommend Annette Lareau’s research in Unequal Childhoods.) And by saying that parents want to get their kids into good colleges, what we’re really saying is that college-educated parents realize that this is important in ensuring a bright future for their children. That’s what all parents want.

But it’s what’s missing from this study that’s perhaps the most interesting (and upsetting) factor of all: Drs. Ramey only looked at time-use data from married parents. If they included children born out of wedlock, the educational disparities would have been even greater. Since some 40% of births in the United States are nonmarital – and the vast majority of these births are to women with less than a college degree – looking at only married couples sugar-coats the story.

So we’re looking at a significantly greater time-gap than “just” the fact that among married parents, the college-educated spend twice as much time with children. And that’s a sobering thought.

The Author : Christine B. Whelan
Dr. Christine B. Whelan is an author, professor and speaker. She and her husband, Peter, and their dictator cats, Chairman Meow and Evita Purron, live in Pittsburgh. Her book "Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women" is available in stores or at the Halo Store.
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