March 2006

IZA DP No. 2058: Is Mothers' Time With Their Children Home Production or Leisure?

published in: Journal of Human Resources, 2007, 42(3), 643-81

As mothers have increased their paid work efforts, conflicts between employment and family responsibilities have grown. This evolution has led researchers to explore more fully the role that caregiving responsibilities play in mothers’ time choices. We study this issue using data from the 2003 American Time Use Survey. We estimate a simultaneous four-equation system in which the dependent variables are the number of minutes in a mother’s diary day that she devotes to home production, leisure, market work, and caregiving. The first goal of this estimation is to determine if time spent with children responds to prices and demographics more like home production time or leisure. The second goal is to glean a better understanding of the importance that marital status, race, and other demographic factors play in time choices, once economic factors are controlled. Our final goal is to improve upon the existing time use literature by estimating a structural time use model that produces explicit estimates of wage and child care price elasticities. Our results show that mothers’ time with their children does not respond to price or demographic changes much like home production or leisure and that, somewhat surprisingly, the caregiving choice responds most like paid labor particularly in the response to higher wages.