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Parental work schedules and child-care arrangements in low-income families


Objective: This study analyzes the relationships between parental working schedules and several aspects of child-care arrangements for young children in low-income single-mother and two-partner households. Background: Children whose parents work nonstandard schedules may hold child-care arrangements that are less stimulating or developmentally productive than their peers whose parents work standard schedules. This study builds on previous research by expanding the set of outcomes under analysis, accounting for coscheduling in two-partner households, revising traditional shift definitions, and using recent, nationally representative data. Method: The 2012 National Survey of Early Care and Education is used to develop work schedule typologies. Regression methods are employed to evaluate the relationships between these schedules and the use of center-based, home-based, and relative care; continuity of care; and complexity of care (a new measure introduced as an alternative to care multiplicity). Results: Nonstandard schedules are associated with increased child-care complexity and decreased continuity and the types of care that children receive in single-mother households but less so in two-partner households. In two-partner households the largest effects are in households in which both partners work standard schedules; children in these households receive more nonparental care and are in more complex child-care arrangements. Conclusion: Findings point to the cumulative disadvantage accruing to the children of single mothers, especially those working nontraditional shifts. Implications: Labor market inequalities yield consequences for children's development and intergenerational stratification. (author abstract)

Resource Type:
Reports & Papers
United States

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